EVENT Oct 8: Smart City Futures (online)

Want to learn more about the Smart Cities Movement? You can check out Smart City Futures. It’s an online conference that will look at the following:

  • Public-private collaboration to maintain and rebuild our cities.
  • How data, innovation and technology can make American cities more resilient.
  • How to build broad access to digital infrastructure that creates more opportunity for every American and keeps America competitive.
  • Why the smart cities movement has only just begun — and how you can benefit.
  • How cities, utility operators and companies are sharing, integrating and governing data to improve the quality of life of urban residents.
  • Securing the smart city: essential tools and practices for safety and cybersecurity.
  • How to ensure America regains a global lead in building the 5G networks that are essential to future geopolitical and industrial competitiveness.

First date is Oct 8 (which overlaps with the MN Broadband 2020) but there are other dates coming up on Nov 12 and Dec 3.

What can Census 2020 teach us about online communication and the digital divide?

This week, the Daily Yonder posts an interesting look at moving the Census online. I wrote about the process at the beginning of the year and most of us have seen it as it rolls out. The Census assumed that 80 percent of us would want to take the Census online. So they sent cards to us. And then not everyone complied so they sent more. Still no movement in some areas. So apparently they sent paper version that look just like the reminders people had been ignoring.

Of course the situation was made much worse by COVID. Ironically the Census thought they could change society as COVID has by just expecting people to move to online communication without giving them a choice. It hasn’t worked…

The digital divide is far more complex than not having the availability of broadband infrastructure where one lives or works. Mere availability is a significant yet separate problem from personal affordability of broadband. Which is distinct from actual adoption and practical use of the expensive, fee-for-service communications infrastructure. All of which also require additional, expensive tools including fairly new hardware and very recent software, and a place where they are available.  Clearly, we have a long way to go to eliminate the challenges that will enable everyone to more fully embrace and participate in all things digital — including Census 2020.

This is why consumer advocates relentlessly explain to policymakers and companies that digital-only communications are not for everyone. Printed and digital options are necessary for full inclusion and broader participation in commerce and community. Collectively, we need to appreciate that so many of our neighbors report difficulties in accessing online technologies, have security concerns about online fraud or require paper communications for practical reasons. The digital divide is not limited to older adults, low-income households without computers or broadband service, people in rural areas where unreliable internet access is common, minority populations in urban areas with theoretical availability but not affordable access, and the one in four people living with a disability of some kind that are three times more likely to say that they never go online.

I share this for two reasons. First it’s a good reminder to those of us in the digital world that there are those who do not live here – some because of availability of broadband, devices or skills and some due more to choice, privacy or other concerns. So when we want to reach them, we need to give options. Sending paper census forms at the onset (with a link to take online) may have increased participation and at this point saved money.

Secondly, there are efforts to extend the deadline for the Census, which may be interesting to anyone working with a population they feel is going to be underrepresented for any reason. (And Census results will most likely have an impact on future broadband funding.)

The future of a vibrant, inclusive and fully counted America needs an accurate Census 2020 that is not irreparably damaged by unwavering plans and artificial deadlines. Our country cannot afford a lack of will to learn and adapt under urgent circumstances — and must take the additional steps with extended timelines to assure fully representative results. Keep Me Posted urges Congress to immediately pass legislation to extend the legal deadline for Census 2020 — and implores the Census Bureau to send a paper form to all non-responsive residences in an envelope clearly marked “Final Notice: Paper Form Enclosed — Postage Paid” along with robust and safe in-person measures to count communities historically known to be a challenge to include as required by our Nation’s founding document.

 

What can you do with a drone? Ask Wisconsin

I thought this was interesting. I live in a city. This summer I have seen more drones than usual, often at protests or rallies. I was delighted to hear of some times in rural Wisconsin where drones saved time, money and lives. GovTech reports…

Within the first three or four months of the purchase, Bushey’s department received a call from a resident who couldn’t find her husband. Evidence suggested the man was in a particular part of the lake. A drone was launched, and after two minutes of flight time, the police found the husband.

Bushey shared another drowning story to illustrate the efficiency of drone technology. In 2016, someone had drowned in an unknown portion of the lake. With six people and 90 minutes of time, the department located the victim.

In contrast, Bushey recently offered a drone as a resource during a search for an intoxicated man who had fallen into the lake. The offer was declined, and it took five hours for a team of 13 agencies from Wisconsin and Illinois to find the person without the drone.

Bushey cited other recent episodes in which drone technology has made a difference in Linn. One incident involved a man who attempted suicide by overdose. A drone found the man who, according to a doctor, would have died in another hour. In another case, an older individual was discovered lying down in a pasture in the middle of the night. For Bushey, these examples more than demonstrate that drones have proven their value to Linn.

“There’s not really a dollar value [on people’s lives],” he said.

Dakota County plans for CARES and Broadband (Meeting Aug 4)

If you have an interest in what’s happening in Dakota County or you just want to hear/see what another county is doing, you might consider attending the discussion (online and in person) in Dakota County

WHEREAS, Dakota County is committed to be a high-performing organization for the citizens of the County; and

WHEREAS, the Workshop will be an opportunity for the County Board to discuss Broadband; and

WHEREAS, staff recommends holding a workshop to allow staff to receive direction from the County Board on Broadband.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, That the Dakota County Board of Commissioners hereby schedules a County Board Workshop for Tuesday, August 4, 2020, following the General Government and Policy Committee, in the Boardroom, Administration Center, 1590 Highway 55, Hastings, MN, or via telephone or other electronic means if necessary due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic to receive comments on staff direction for Broadband.

You can learn a little more about their plan (easier to read on their site)

Update On Process And Timeline For Potential COVID-19 Related Broadband Expansion Using CARES Act Funding

PURPOSE/ACTION REQUESTED
Provide an update on the process and timeline in developing COVID-19 related Broadband Expansion in Dakota County.
SUMMARY
The County is interested in learning about potential opportunities to invest CARES Act funds to better support our residents to engage in remote learning, work from home, and other activities that require a robust network of connectivity and to better meet the public service needs revealed by the pandemic. Dakota County requires broadband infrastructure built out to serve the unserved and underserved. The County is interested in exploring all technologies available to address the unserved and underserved areas of the County (Attachment A). These areas can be large or small geographically or in population.
The County will mail letters of interest (Attachment B) to all service providers (Attachment C) in the County asking them to respond with project areas that can be built out to better serve the residents of the County. Submissions must specify the unserved or underserved area(s) to be addressed, the total cost and funds requested from the County, and the timeline including the firm completion date. The Information Technology (IT) Department will review and recommend the best potential projects and setup meetings to fully develop project plans.
Proposed Time Line:
July 28, 2020 – send Letters of Interest to all service providers
August 12, 2020 – deadline for receipt of responses
Week ending August 21, 2020 reviewing responses
Request Board approval in September
Contracts for approved projects executed September
October/November buildout
Payment before December 1st
County IT will update the board with specific project locations, cost and project schedules.
RECOMMENDATION
Information only; no action requested.
EXPLANATION OF FISCAL/FTE IMPACTS
Funding for any projects, if approved, would be expected to use CARES Act funds with an amount to be
determined.

And a look at the letter that is going out…

DATE: July 28, 2020
TO: Interested Parties
FROM: Dan Cater, Chief Information Officer
SUBJECT: Broadband Connectivity within Dakota County borders
Dakota County Government has an interest in expanding high speed internet throughout Dakota County as the COVID-19 situation has illustrated the need for faster more reliable connectivity for our citizens, business, and other agencies.
The County is interested in learning about potential opportunities to invest CARES Act funds to better support our residents to engage in remote learning, work from home, and other activities that require a robust network of connectivity and to better meet the public service needs revealed by the pandemic.
Dakota County requires broadband infrastructure built out to serve the unserved and underserved. The County is interested in exploring all technologies available to address the unserved and underserved areas of the County. These areas can be large or small geographically or in population.
Attached is the most recent service inventory map produced by the State of Minnesota Deed Office of Broadband. CARES Act requires an aggressive timeline. Submissions must specify the unserved or underserved area(s) to be addressed, the total cost and funds requested from the County, and the timeline including the firm completion date. Work and payment need to be completed before
December 1st of this year. A high-level timeline is below:
– July 28th – letter soliciting proposals/plans
– August 12
th – deadline for receipt of responses
– Week ending August 21st review responses, setting up zoom meetings
– Request Board approval in September
– Contracts executed in September
– October/November buildout
– Payment before December 1st
Please let us know if you have an interest in discussing in providing a solution by contacting
Dan.Ferber@co.dakota.mn.us or Dan.Cater@co.dakota.mn.us.

Dakota County is always generous with public access to documents, which I think can be a gift to counties with fewer staff working on broadband.

EVENT Aug 3: Workshop Examining the Role of Libraries on Broadband Adoption and Literacy

An invitation from the FCC

Workshop Examining the Role of Libraries on Broadband Adoption and Literacy
Aug 3, 2020
10:00 am – 1:30 pm EDT
Online Only

The Digital Empowerment and Inclusion Working Group of the Advisory Committee on Diversity and Digital Empowerment (ACDDE) and the Media Bureau is hosting this virtual workshop to examine the role of U.S. libraries as community hubs to drive digital adoption and literacy. The workshop will be convened via WebEx in light of travel restrictions and other concerns related to the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, and will be available to the public via live feed from the FCC’s web page at www.fcc.gov/live.

The workshop will feature experts from libraries, academia, and civil society organizations who will discuss efforts to support underserved rural and urban communities’ acquisition of digital skills. Experts will consider what constitutes digital inclusion today and the role of libraries and public-private partnerships in supporting digital literacy. Panelists will also address the impact of COVID-19 on advancing digital inclusion, as well as the impact of various local, state, and federal interventions in recent months.

 

 

COVID Funding available at city and county level in Minnesota

The broadband connection here may be tenuous but you have to be online to see the list – and the list may include possible funding for broadband. (Ironic, huh the people who need it most might not see it!) I did want to share this info from the MN Chamber of Commerce because I suspect the info is valuable to many readers…

Businesses around Minnesota need assistance to withstand the challenges of COVID-19. Many cities and counties throughout the state have grant or loan programs available to businesses, so their local economies can compete and thrive. The Minnesota Chamber’s Grow Minnesota! Partnership has compiled a list of available funding at the city and county level.

Find your community on this list, and apply for valuable resources to keep your company operating. If you don’t see your community on this list, email growminnesota@mnchamber.com, and Grow Minnesota! Partnership staff will get back to you with details about your area.

Visit the site to see the list.

Going deep with telehealth application to get medical supplies Where they need to go

Broadband Breakfast reports on a recent Amazon Web Services webinar that highlights Minnesota…

Emily Ward, state planning director for emergency preparedness and response at the Minnesota Department of Health, detailed ways in which the healthcare sector leveraged and repurposed the city’s cloud services in response to the pandemic.

The department’s information technology sector developed two applications to assist in getting medical supplies to those in need, called POD PreCheck and POD Locator.

PODs, or point(s) of dispensing, are community locations at which state and local agencies dispense medical materials and medications to the public.

POD PreCheck allowed clients to prescreen their conditions electronically, which assisted the Minnesota Department of Health in delivering the best medication to consumers with speed and efficiency, reducing wait times.

POD Locator is a dynamic mapping application that shows the locations of PODs on a searchable map and provides any site-specific instructions.

“The scalability offered by the cloud was the most desirable feature,” said Ward. “This app will still work if more than 5 million users try to access it.”

“It is Important that it remains stable,” she added.

Hubbard County vets office providing telehealth option

The Park Rapids Enterprise reports…

The Hubbard County Veteran Services Office (VSO) is only the second in Minnesota to offer telehealth appointments to local veterans.

Assistant Veteran Services Officer Darius Simon told the county board on Tuesday, “With the recent COVID-19, our hours have been a little crazy at the office. We’ve been working from home, but it’s also affected our veterans in general.”

Telehealth allows veterans to have medical appointments at the VSO, Simon explained. “So they can do telehealth medicine to, say, a therapist in Colorado or their pharmacist in Fargo.”

Through the Fargo VA Medical Center, Simon acquired an iPad with cellular and video capabilities.

“That was free of charge,” noted County VSO Jerry Bjerke. …

“You have the option of coming to our office, which is maybe 10 minutes away, or a two-hour drive there and back,” he said. “Especially in the winter time, it gets a little stressful, so we see this as a positive. … It’s a big deal. We’re pretty happy.”

EVENT June 20: Digital Poor People’s Mass march on Washington – June 20, 21

As my colleague Bernadine Joselyn says, broadband makes everything better. And the now it’s being used to unite people across the US to demonstrate the power of our communities in a COVID-19 aware, non-weather dependent way that is open to anyone with broadband to cyber march on Washington. Here are the details

WHAT

  • The Mass Poor People’s Assembly and Moral March on Washington will be the largest digital gathering of poor, dispossessed and impacted people, faith leaders, and people of conscience on June 20, 2020.
  • The increasing urgency of a broad movement led by the poor and most impacted is more apparent every day. Now is the time to organize towards collective action to enact a moral agenda for the nation. As our ranks grow in the coming months due to COVID-19 and the ongoing crisis of poverty, building a platform for the plight, fight, and insight of the poor is even more urgent
  • We are marshalling our collective voices to demonstrate the power of our communities. We demand that both major political parties address the interlocking injustices of systemic racism, poverty, ecological devastation, militarism and the distorted moral narrative of religious nationalism by implementing our Moral Agenda.

WHEN

  • This 2 hour program will be broadcast on Saturday, June 20th at 10:00am EST and 6:00pm EST and again on Sunday, June 21st at 6:00pm EST. Visit June2020.org to tune in.

WHERE

  • The Mass Poor People’s Assembly & Moral March on Washington is going digital! We will gather from all 50 U.S. states and territories, and from across the world.

WHY

  • We are gathering on June 20, 2020 to dramatize the pain and prophetic leadership of the poor and build power to enact our demands.
  • We are waking the nation to the interlocking injustices facing 140 million poor and low-income people, 43% of the nation.
  • But it’s not enough just to be awake. It’s not the waking, it’s the rising. On June 20, 2020, we rise together!
  • If the rejected millions—the poor without health insurance, without living wages, without clean water, without voting protections—unite, we can move the moral and political imagination of this country and revive the heart of our democracy!

WHO

  • The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival is made up of people of all backgrounds, we are Black, Brown, White, Native, and Asian; we are old and young; we are Christian, Sikh, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim; we are people of faith and not of faith; we are people of all sexual orientations and gender identities; we are led by poor people and we are a cross-class movement; we are people of all abilities; and we live across this nation, from Alabama to Alaska, from Maine to California to Mississippi.

HOW

  • We will gather online on June 20, 2020 from across the country and world.
  • We will launch a robust accessibility campaign to ensure those of us most affected by poverty and its interlocking injustices are able to participate fully.
  • To begin, go to www.june2020.org to let us know you will join us on June 20, 2020.
  • Spread the word in your networks and social media.
  • Get connected to your state’s coordinating committee.

Toward Inclusive Urban Technology – lessons learned

Benton has a new publication out (Toward Inclusive Urban Technology: Lessons, cases, and resources developed by local technology). They pull out two lessons:

  • Achieving “Build With” Standards for Smart City Planning
  • Authentic Civic Engagement for Emerging Technology

Two lessons that are not exclusive to urban areas or for that matter to technology programs but it’s a good reminder. They give a number of examples where the targeted users were and weren’t part of the solution – the difference is clear. The stories are interesting and if your community is thinking about ways to integrate technology, there are some good examples. And the graphic helps describe a process that works.

OPPORTUNITY: Support the Black Lives Matter movement with open source tech and open data

One thing about social distancing and moving events online is that suddenly events that are happening in the Cities are available to a wider audience. With that in mind, I wanted to share the latest from Open Twin Cities

Like you, we are mourning the murder of George Floyd. It was tragic, unjust, and unfortunately too common. As we see people in the Twin Cities and around the world rising up to affirm that Black lives matter, we want to find solutions to eliminate systemic racism and violence towards people of color that our society, government, and businesses have perpetuated throughout history.

Open Twin Cities believes that open source technology and open data have the power to promote change in our communities. For the past 7+ years, we have been creating spaces and places for civic technologists to engage in dialogue and design solutions to improve our communities. Open Twin Cities centers the community and its members, co-creating in partnership and within the community. We are leveraging our skills and experience to support and sustain the Black Lives Matter movement.

We are not alone. As part of the Code for America Brigade Network, we are engaged in a nationwide network of civic technologists who share similar passions and concerns. Please see this statement from Code for America’s CEO.

We ask you to join us in this work.

How can open source tech and open data projects support this movement, both immediately and for long-term change? Here are ways to support and get involved:

  • Work on a project: We have a few projects and ideas in progress. For example, currently in development and in use is the Twin Cities Mutual Aid map, a web app sharing up-to-date information about where to offer and find mutual aid locally. The data collection and mapping project was started by community members (www.tcmap.org) during the recent uprisings, and civic hackers quickly joined them to build a mapping app with the support of the Open Twin Cities community. You can view and use the map here, and check out the project on GitHub to submit issues and ideas for new features.
  • Submit an idea for a project: Join the Open Twin Cities Slack to see, share, and support ideas. See an emerging need for civic technology? Share your idea to the #project-ideas channel.
  • Attend meet-ups: We hold meet-ups twice a month to give you a chance to connect with others engaged in civic technology work.
  • Participate in Code Switch, our annual hackathon co-organized with Techquity and Software for Good. We are redesigning our annual hackathon and will launch a digital platform on July 4, 2020 where you can submit your ideas, form a team, and work on your projects. Teams will have July and August to work on their projects. On September 12, 2020, the National Day of Civic Hacking, we will convene a conversation with local social and economic justice leaders in the Twin Cities to learn more ways to disrupt inequity and combat racism and injustice. We will also celebrate and award resources for support to top projects.
  • Join our book club. Civic tech isn’t just about data, coding, and designing. A major part of our work as civic technologists and engaged community members is educating ourselves about issues and opportunities in the communities where we live. Join us to read and discuss:

The Black and the Blue – Saturday, August 8, 2pm (virtual)
Race After Technology – Date & details TBD

OPPORTUNITY: Government Experience Awards Call for Entries deadline July 31, 2020

OK Minnesota, let’s show them how we shine…

The Center for Digital Government (CDG) invites nominations for its Government Experience Awards, where we celebrate achievements and learn best practices from U.S. state, counties, cities, and federal agencies/departments. We will recognize communities that have gone beyond simply using the web to radically improve upon the experience of government and that are pushing the boundaries of how services are delivered.

Extended Nomination Deadline: Friday, July 31, 2020

Overall GovX Experience Awards Nomination Form CLICK HERE
Overall Awards recognize the entire jurisdiction’s citizen/business experience efforts, and now includes a section for your COVID-19 response efforts.
All U.S. state, county and city governments may nominate their jurisdictions’ user experience in the overall categories of State Government; County Government; and City Government.

Project GovX Experience Awards Nomination Form CLICK HERE
Project Awards recognize single-focus areas which may include more than one method of engagement such as mobile, web and social media, etc.
U.S. state, local, and federal government individual agencies and departments may nominate their projects in the project categories of City; County; State; and Federal.
Project GovX Experience Special Awards for COVID-19 Response
Nomination Form CLICK HERE
If you have specific COVID-19 projects you would like to nominate, you may submit them in our new COVID-19 category for federal, state and local government.
A government jurisdiction may submit nominations for both the Overall award and for more than one project (nominate each project separately). Nominations must be submitted by government staff/officials.

Top government jurisdictions, agencies and departments will be featured in an Experience Academy and will be honored at a high-energy, celebratory awards banquet (TBD), while also being featured in Government Technology and other publications.

EVENT June 9: Blandin Broadband Leadership Roundtable: Polco’s civic engagement platform

The next Blandin Broadband Leadership Roundtable will feature a presentation by Matt Fulton of Polco.  According to their website, “Polco’s civic engagement platform makes meaningful communication between community leaders and the people they serve not only possible, but enjoyable.”    See more at www.polco.us .  Be prepared to share how your community is using online tools to engage citizens and the benefits and challenges of that engagement.  The Blandin broadband team will share its experience of moving it Blandin Broadband Communities project development process online.  Join us Tuesday, June 9 at 9 am by registering here: https://zoom.us/meeting/register/tJwoc-2qrDotHNMilSss2LwHaw92XEhj3fqi .

Please share your ideas for future discussion topics to broadband@blandinfoundation.org

Sen Klobuchar et al urge Congressional leaders to ensure Broadband for College Students

From Senator Klobuchar’s office…

Klobuchar, Eshoo Lead Bicameral Letter Urging Congressional Leaders to Ensure College Students in Need Have Access to High-Speed Internet

In May, Klobuchar and Eshoo introduced bicameral legislation to help ensure students with financial need can access critical internet services

Joined by 15 colleagues in the House and Senate, letter calls for dedicated funding in future legislation to ensure students have access to internet service and devices, such as laptops and tablets, to learn from home during the pandemic

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Representative Anna G. Eshoo (D-CA) led 15 colleagues from both the House and Senate in a bicameral letter to Majority Leader McConnell, Speaker Pelosi, Minority Leader Schumer, and Minority Leader McCarthy urging the leaders to include dedicated funding in future legislation to help ensure that college and university students with the greatest financial need can access high-speed internet during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

In May, Klobuchar and Senators Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Gary Peters (D-MI), and Jacky Rosen (D-NV) introduced the Supporting Connectivity for Higher Education Students in Need Act to help ensure that college and university students with the greatest financial needs can access high-speed internet during the coronavirus pandemic. The bill would appropriate $1 billion to establish an Emergency Higher Education Connectivity fund at the National Telecommunications Information Administration to help ensure that college and university students at historically Black colleges and universities, Tribal colleges and universities, Hispanic-serving institutions, and other minority-serving institutions, as well as rural-serving institutions, have adequate home internet connectivity during the coronavirus pandemic. Eshoo introduced companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives with Representatives Doris Matsui (D-CA), G.K. Butterfield (D-NC), Joaquin Castro (D-TX), Marcia Fudge (D-OH), Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE), and Alma Adams (D-NC).

“Even before the pandemic, only 66 percent of black households, 61 percent of Hispanic households, and 63 percent of rural households had access to broadband, and one survey found that about 20 percent of college students did not have consistent access to technology, such as laptops and tablets,” the lawmakers wrote.

“Another survey found that 30 percent of students experienced difficulty connecting to the internet when accessing course material online during the pandemic.  Without action from Congress to address these disparities, students are at serious risk of falling behind and missing out on job and academic opportunities provided by the internet.”

Klobuchar and Eshoo were joined on the letter by Senators Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), and Representatives Doris Matsui (D-CA), G.K. Butterfield (D-NC), Marcia Fudge (D-OH), Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-PA), Alma Adams (D-NC), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), and Tony Cardenas (D-CA).

Klobuchar has also called for dedicated funding to ensure all K-12 students have access to the internet during the pandemic. In March, Klobuchar led a letter with Senators Gary Peters (D-MI) and Jon Tester (D-MT) urging the FCC to ensure that all K-12 students have internet access and can continue learning from home as schools nationwide are closed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In May, Klobuchar also joined Senators Ed Markey (D-MA), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), and 40 other Senators to introduce the Emergency Educational Connections Act. The bill would establish a $4 billion Emergency Connectivity Fund at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to provide support for schools and libraries to ensure that K-12 students have adequate home internet connectivity during the coronavirus pandemic.

Full text of the letter can be found HERE and below:

Dear Majority Leader McConnell, Speaker Pelosi, Minority Leader Schumer, and Minority Leader McCarthy:

We write to urge you to include dedicated funding in future legislation to help ensure that college and university students with the greatest financial need can access high-speed internet during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

As colleges and universities across the country have transitioned to distance learning to limit the spread of coronavirus, many students who relied on campus resources are struggling to continue their education from home.  One of the biggest barriers for students of color, students in rural areas, and other disadvantaged students is lack of access to reliable and affordable internet connectivity, equipment required for connectivity, and devices. These are all required to participate in distance learning. Even before the pandemic, only 66 percent of black households, 61 percent of Hispanic households, and 63 percent of rural households had access to broadband, and one survey found that about 20 percent of college students did not have consistent access to technology, such as laptops and tablets.  Another survey found that 30 percent of students experienced difficulty connecting to the internet when accessing course material online during the pandemic.  Without action from Congress to address these disparities, students are at serious risk of falling behind and missing out on job and academic opportunities provided by the internet.

While the spring semester is ending, colleges and universities are moving summer classes and programs online and will likely continue distance learning into the next school year. As it remains unclear when effective treatment or a vaccine will be available, connecting college and university students to the internet is even more essential.

Although the CARES Act included funding for institutions of higher education, it did not include dedicated funding sufficient to ensure that college and university students have essential internet connectivity. It is for this reason we introduced the bicameral Supporting Connectivity for Higher Education Students in Need Act, which is supported by over 60 higher education, civil rights, and public interest organizations.  We urge you to include $1 billion in dedicated funding in a future coronavirus relief package to establish an Emergency Higher Education Connectivity fund at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to help ensure that college and university students with the greatest financial need at historically Black colleges and universities, Tribal colleges and universities, Hispanic-serving institutions, and other minority-serving institutions, as well as rural-serving institutions, can pay for at-home internet connectivity, equipment, and devices such as laptops and tablets.

Thank you for your attention to this highly important issue. We stand ready to work with you to help keep college and university students connected at this critical time.

Sincerely,

Cyberattacks hitting Minnesota and local governments

The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports of cyberattacks in Minnesota…

Hackers forced the Minnesota Senate website offline Tuesday, the latest in a series of cyberattacks targeting state and local computer systems. …

Ludeman said the security breach came from the same hacker group that targeted 10 state agencies, including the governor’s office, in recent days.

It’s unknown whether the attacks are related to demonstrations and unrest sparked by the death of George Floyd. But Gov. Tim Walz said at a weekend news conference that “a very sophisticated denial-of-service attack on all state computers was executed” as the state readied its response to riots on Saturday.

Such denial-of-service attacks send high levels of external traffic to a website’s servers, causing the site to freeze or crash.

“That’s not somebody sitting in their basement,” Walz said at the time.

City of Minneapolis websites also experienced outages due to a cyberattack early Thursday morning. A city spokeswoman said there was no evidence of a data breach and that most of the sites were back online by 9 a.m. that day.

It reinforces an important layer to digital inclusion – cybersecurity. Back in 2012 there was a national push (Stop Think Connect) to promote and encourage cybersecurity. I know the MN Broadband Task Force learned about cybersecurity in 2018 (and earlier). And there were discussions and tips shared even at the onset of the COVID move to work at home – but I think people are probably ready for a more detailed discussion and expecting more coverage especially given the tumultuous times and Minneapolis coverages in the news.