Lack of broadband could mean underrepresentation of rural in 2020 census

The Daily Yonder reports…

Rural communities with high levels of poverty and lack of access to internet could be undercounted in the 2020 U. S. Census, according to a report.

Where will this be worst?

O’Hare’s warning is based on likely limits to budgets for Census operations and a change in methodology. The Census will rely more on the internet for data collection. Since rural residents trail in internet connectivity, with 21% of rural homes lacking service compared with 13% of urban residents, response rates from rural areas could be under-represented.

The rural regions with the most at risk, and the least likely to have internet service, are African-Americans communities in the South, Hispanics in the Southwest, and Native Americans living near tribal lands and reservations. Low participation rates are also expected in “deep Appalachia” and among migrant farmworker families. O’Hare said that approximately 40% of impoverished rural people in these regions have no internet access.

Why does it matter?

“Undercounted communities do not receive their fair share of public funds for things like schools, hospitals, day care centers, and roads. Rural communities that are already struggling economically can ill afford to lose federal money because they are not fully counted in the Census,” O’Hare stated.

Dakota County looks at Rights of Way and Broadband Joint Powers

This afternoon’s post is unapologetically wonky. I attended a Dakota County Commissioner’s meeting where they discussed changes to their Management of Public Rights of Way due to changes in state statute to accommodate small cell equipment placement and an agreement to create the Dakota Broadband Board Joint Powers. You can find minutes of the meeting online.

I thought this might be helpful for other communities that may need to make similar changes and/or are looking at Joint Powers agreements for shared broadband management. (Dakota County is always good about sharing their broadband related notes and templates!)

First notes from the Public Hearing To Receive Comments And To Amend Ordinance 126, Management Of Public Right Of Way are on pages 43-45. And you can see the proposed ordinance changes to the Ordinance on pages 46-75.

I was tempted to paste sections here – but frankly it’s easier to read the PDF with changes in red. It is interesting to see how they balance wanting to give utility access to citizens with community safety and aesthetics.

There are sections that I found of particular interest:

  • 103.49 Special Event Permit (pg 55)
  • 103.52 Small Wireless Facility. (pg 55) – gets into the size of equipment
  • Subd. 3. Small Wireless Facility Conditions. (pg 62)
  • Mapping – it would be nice to have public access to where the facilities were located for planning

Next – the Authorization To Execute Joint Powers Agreement To Create Dakota Broadband Board Joint Powers Organization (pages 327-329 ). At the October 31, 2017 County Board Meeting, the County Board authorized the County Board Chair to execute a joint powers agreement to create the Dakota Broadband Board (DBB) joint powers entity to manage the Dakota County Institutional Network (I-Net). After the County Board adopted that resolution, some cities that have indicated they wish to participate in the DBB raised questions about various terms in the joint powers agreement. After numerous discussions between the DBB consultant, Craig Ebeling, city attorneys and the County Attorney’s Office, the questions and proposed modifications to certain terms in the joint powers agreement have been resolved.

The revised Joint Powers Agreement is found on pages 331-356. Here’s the Table of Contents

  1. Statement of Purpose and Powers to be Exercised ………….1
  2. Manner of Exercising Powers; Creation of Dakota County Broadband Board ……1
  3. Defined Terms …………………………..1
  4. Participant ……………………3
  5. Board……………………………………………….4
  6. Acquisition of Interests in System Components……………….7
  7. Ownership of System Components……………………..7
  8. Expansion of System……………………………………..8
  9. Operating and Maintenance Cost Sharing……………..8
  10. Financing Initial I-Net and Initial C-Net Capital Improvements …….8
  11. Revenue Generation…………………..9
  12. Establishment of a Relocation Pool; Submission of Capital Plans……9
  13. Default; Remedies…………..10
  14. Limitation of Liability; Indemnification …10
  15. Termination of Board; Disposition of Assets……..11
  16. Amendments………………………………11





Literature review on the impact of broadband

When you need numbers to make your case I know where you can go! To the new report from Purdue University (by Roberto Gallardo, Brian Whitacre and Alison Grant) – Research & Policy Insights: Broadband’s Impact A Brief Literature Review. It looks at research related to broadband specifically on the following topics:

  • Economic Development
  • Migration & Civic Engagement
  • Education
  • Telework
  • Telehealth
  • Smart Cities, Big Data, & Artificial Intelligence
  • Agriculture

Again, it’s a great reference tool to help give you quality answers to help make the case for better broadband. It’s also inspiring to read. I wanted to share just a portion they wrote about rural broadband…

Focusing on rural areas is important since they are lagging behind urban areas when it comes to broadband deployment and use (Perrin, 2017; Good, 2017). Furthermore, rural places need digital connectivity in order to compensate for their remoteness (Salemink, Strijker, & Bosworth, 2015). Studies that have given specific attention to rural areas have noted a positive relationship between rural broadband access and adoption and greater economic growth (Stenberg, et al., 2009), attraction of new firms (Kim & Orazem, 2017), higher household incomes (Whitacre, Gallardo, & Stover, 2014), small business growth (Shideler & Badasyan, 2012), increase in annual sales and value added (Canzian, Poy, & Schuller, 2015), and growth in annual payroll and number of business establishments (Kandilov & Renkow, 2010). In addition, a recent article explored the effects of USDA broadband loan programs on agriculture and found a positive impact on farm sales, expenditures, and profits among rural counties adjacent to metropolitan counties (Kandilov, Kandilov, Liu, & Renkow, 2017).

Additional studies have estimated the economic impact of rural broadband or lack thereof. The Hudson Institute estimated that broadband companies contributed $2.4 billion in 2015, supporting over 65,000 jobs and $100 billion in e-commerce (Kuttner, 2016). Another report conducted by Ohio State University attempted to estimate the economic benefits associated with increasing broadband access and adoption in Ohio. Using two research articles that estimated broadband consumer surplus ($1,850 per household per year was used in practice), they concluded that reaching full broadband coverage and adoption among currently unserved Ohio households would result in $2 billion in economic benefits over the next 15 years (Rembert, Feng, & Partridge , 2017). Following a similar methodology, another study found that assuming full access of 25/3 Megabytes per second (Mbps) fixed broadband in the United States and a 20 percent adoption would result in $43.8 billion in economic benefits over 15 years (Gallardo & Rembert, 2017).

Important to note is that distinguishing between broadband access/availability and adoption is critical. Even if broadband is available, subscribing or using it (adoption) is not a given. In fact, Internet know-how or utilization is not randomly distributed among the population. For example, a study among young (college-age) Internet users found that parental education, gender, and race/ethnicity impacted the level of web-use skills (Hargittai, 2010). Furthermore, the relationship between entrepreneurs and creative class workers found that broadband adoption actually had a negative relationship with creative class type of workers in rural communities, while higher broadband availability is associated with a higher level of entrepreneurs (Conley & Whitacre, 2016). Another study found that increases in broadband adoption were more significantly related to changes in median household income and percentage of nonfarm proprietors than broadband availability (Whitacre, Gallardo, & Strover, 2014). Thus, it is important to distinguish between the impact of broadband access/availability and adoption/utilization since the digital divide consists of both (Gallardo, 2016).

Minnesota State Capitol prepares for digital age

According to State Tech

Minnesota IT Services worked with the state’s Department of Administration to design and install new IT systems that ensure the Capitol will remain relevant to the public in the digital age.

“Minnesota IT Services staff was instrumental in this process,” said Wayne Waslaski, senior director of real estate and construction services at the Department of Administration, in a press release unveiling the tech upgrades.

Most upgrades aim to create a place where Minnesotans can participate in today’s government landscape, much of which is digital. For this reason, IT services added IT infrastructure that facilitates free Wi-Fi in public spaces.

“As legislators, lobbyists, constituents and advocates gather at the Capitol to lay the groundwork for the future of our state, they can keep up with each other and work to advance legislation in real time online,” the press release states.

IT services also helped coordinate a fiber broadband installation throughout the building, which connected all agencies in the building to the new network. The Capitol has also been outfitted with two wiring closets for network connections.

“Having two closets allows us to have increased capacity for our network and resiliency. If one closet has issues or stops working, the whole system will not go offline,” said Minnesota IT Services’ Systems Supervisor Bruce Zimmerman in the press release.

A lesson in unintended consequences from Apple and Civic Apps

According to GCN, Apple has changed some of its rules in a way that is making it harder for cities to create apps through vendors. For example, there’s a civic app See, Click, Fix where citizens can report things like broken street lights or offensive graffiti. (St Paul has it; I’ve used it. It’s slick.) It’s also a plug and play sort of solution for communities where the community doesn’t need to create a new solution. They can build upon the existing tool.

But Apple is making it tougher for communities that use a third party solution – or even a vendor-created solution – to connect with their citizens. Apple would prefer that the communities connect directly with their citizens. That may be feasible for bigger cities but less realistic for smaller communities with limited IT staff. The article explains…

Governments that work with app developers such as CivicPlus or Accela by customizing a template to fit their needs could no longer do that. Instead, they have either build their apps from scratch themselves and assure they don’t share any code with other apps — or go without. For smaller municipalities like Jackson, which has a population of 33,000, the rule pushes them toward the latter.

The rule applies only to apps that run on Apple devices. To use Jackson’s CivicPlus app, Apple users would have to download the main CivicPlus application and then search for Jackson amid the other municipalities the company supports.  Users of Androids or other smartphones would still be able to download apps created through templates. In other words, Jackson would need two apps, which “I thought added to the confusion,” Forgrave said.

They did this to minimize “spam apps” but it turns out a byproduct is hurting civic apps…

Apple issued the rule this summer as part of a refresh of its App Store Review Guidelines and targeted apps that essentially clone others. But the rule undoes much of “progress government has made over the last several years towards better apps, better service, and greater digital competence,” wrote Jennifer Pahlka, founder and executive director of Code for America, in a September blog post. Her two main concerns are that cities “will no longer own the relationship with their citizens” because services offered in an app will go through companies’ brands, and that the “change will reduce choice and competition.” Under the new policy, if a city wants to switch app vendors, it would end up “promoting a private vendor’s brand,” rather than its own.

“Solving the problem of spam apps is a laudable goal,” Pahlka wrote. “But if we have learned anything dealing with complex policy issues in government, it is that the one law always in effect is the law of unintended consequences. I don’t think Apple set out to disintermediate cities with private vendors, but that is the path we’re going down. In an era where trust in government is already low, I can’t see how that benefits anyone.”

It’s a heads up to communities working on civic apps. It’s also a heads up as we look at rules that impact broadband use to build civic engagement. Corporations have different concerns and goals.

A good start to smart cities – smart streets lights

State Tech recently ran an article with a few good ideas for smart city projects. The projects come from big cities – but it seems like there might be a way to adapt them to smaller towns and rural areas too…

From Chicago…

The Chicago Department of Transportation, for example, recently embarked on a $160 million smart street lighting project, much of which will pay for itself. According to a press release from the city, the LED bulbs and IoT-connected devices will be 50 to 75 percent more efficient than traditional lighting methods, meaning the energy cost savings will largely cover the cost of the modernization project.

From Los Angeles…

Meanwhile, Los Angeles, an early adopter of the tech, has equipped more than 80 percent of its streets with connected lights that feature LED bulbs and 4G LTE wireless tech over the last few years. The city is already seeing the benefits of the change.

The city reported a 63 percent savings on its energy bill in the first year with the new lights, and it’s using the connected poles to improve resident cell service, among other benefits.

From Schenectady…

Moreover, in Schenectady, N.Y., city officials have targeted smart street lighting as a foundational element of its overall smart city transformation. As part of a greater smart city initiative facilitated through partnerships with Cisco Systems and GE, the city has upgraded more than 5,000 of its existing streetlights to sustainable LED bulbs, making the entire network accessible through a secure web browser.

Schenectady already sees great energy and cost savings from the upgrade, as well as enhancements to public safety, but it’s looking to expand the role that smart street lights can play even further, Mayor Gary McCarthy said at the Smart Cities Week conference in Washington, D.C., last week.

Minnesota becomes 23rd state to ‘opt-in’ to FirstNet

According to the press release…

Governor Mark Dayton today approved a plan to modernize Minnesota’s communications infrastructure, to better connect and serve first responders across the state. The plan, developed by AT&T under the federal FirstNet effort, will build modern communications infrastructure to power a high-speed, wireless broadband network dedicated to public safety, at no cost to Minnesota taxpayers.
“First responders across our state risk their lives every day to protect and serve the people of Minnesota,” said Governor Dayton. “Modernizing our communications infrastructure will allow our courageous first responders to coordinate and respond more quickly, effectively, and safely, creating better outcomes for them and the communities they serve.”
Modernizing Minnesota’s communications network for first responders will make response and coordination more efficient and secure across the state. The new infrastructure will help expand critical communication coverage to currently underserved areas of Greater Minnesota. The modernization will also help agencies coordinate in response to major public safety events, such as the upcoming 2018 Super Bowl.
“The workgroups devoted numerous hours to ensure the dedicated wireless broadband network offered the tools needed for those on the front lines of an emergency,” said Public Safety Commissioner Mona Dohman. “FirstNet promises to change the way Minnesota’s public safety personnel, in every corner of the state, do their jobs.
In a letter to FirstNet CEO Mike Poth, Governor Dayton stressed the importance of FirstNet consulting with the 11 Federally Recognized Minnesota tribes as sovereign nations, to determine whether building out the public safety communications network on their land would be beneficial to their citizens. Once built, agencies across Minnesota will have the option to opt-in and subscribe to FirstNet service.
About FirstNet
Congress created the First Responder Network Authority (“FirstNet”) in 2012. It provided for a section of prime radio spectrum and $7 billion to entice a partner to take on the responsibility of managing a network for public safety. AT&T answered the call, and will provide more than 100MB of spectrum capacity and strong cybersecurity defenses on the network.
To learn more about how FirstNet will help Minnesota first responders, click here.