OPPORTUNITY: Common Sense is looking for Emergency Connectivity Fund Stories

Common Sense reports…

The Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF) is a federal program that allows schools and libraries to provide laptops, tablets, and home internet service to students and library patrons who would otherwise lack them. It was created, in part, based on our research into the homework gap. To date, the ECF has connected over 12 million people nationwide. However, the fund will soon run out of money, and, when it does, the millions of students and patrons it is connecting may fall back into the digital divide.

Here’s the info for MN…

In Minnesota, there are 52,474 Home internet connections 192,276 Laptops and tablets and $66,210,500 ECF awards

There will be issues if the funding ends, but you can help especially if you know (or are) someone who has taken advantage of the funding…

 If the ECF ends, the connectivity represented in this map will, too. Help us highlight the ongoing need for student connectivity by sharing your story below.

What broadband brings to New Ulm MN – and other rural areas

In Newsweek, Minnesota native and Clearfield CEO, Cheri Beranek, talks about what a difference broadband makes to towns, like her hometown of New Ulm…

As I watched New Ulm Telephone become Nuvera, it grew bigger and provided additional services, and the surrounding areas benefited from that growth because high-speed access in rural communities can attract new businesses. When large facilities in these areas are already equipped with broadband, satellite offices or satellite manufacturing centers can move in more effectively. In the past, manufacturers would only go into rural markets for lower-cost labor, but now, they need labor anywhere they can find it. With broadband, companies can bring these well-paying jobs to rural environments where people need work and draw in even more types of businesses to support that growth.

When broadband brings opportunities into a rural community, it brings them to everyone, including children. Just north of New Ulm are several little towns where kids have to take an hour-long bus ride to get to the nearest school. With broadband in these areas, children could access quality educational services, tools, classes and support from anywhere, and a rural education could provide the same opportunities as one in a city….

The pandemic has shown us how hard life can be without access to quality health care and how much better broadband can make it, but people in rural communities have long understood these disadvantages. From economic and transportation concerns to workforce shortages and insurance coverage, barriers to health care in rural communities lead to less healthy people. When COVID-19 started to spread, the lack of broadband compounded all these barriers. As broadband expands into these areas to provide easier access to health care and telemedicine, a healthier population can drive a healthier economy.

Americans for Responsible Technology promote FTTH over wireless solutions

Public News Service reports…

Groups that promote the responsible deployment of technology are celebrating the Biden administration’s new $42.5 billion Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment program because it favors fiberoptic technology over broadband communications technologies such as cable, satellite, DSL and wireless.
Gary Bolton – president and CEO of the Fiber Broadband Association – said fiberoptic connections are faster, more reliable, and can adapt easily to future technological advances.
“You’ll be able to do things like smart-grid modernization, public safety, and even advanced services like 5G,” said Bolton. “So having this near-limitless capacity is going to really close the digital divide once and for all.”

One reason for supporting fiber is the unintended impact of wireless…

Americans for Responsible Technology President and Founder Doug Wood said health groups favor fiber broadband over wireless because wireless cell towers emit radiofrequency radiation. And a 2018 study from the National Institutes of Health linked RF radiation to cancer in lab animals.

“We’re beginning to understand that it has biological impacts, even at levels far below what the government considers safe,” said Wood. “So, it seems like an unwise decision to start installing wireless antennas and wireless broadband and communities across the country.”

Being online helps learn about and access some activities for older adults in rural Minnesota

MinnPost reports

Social well-being is essential to good health. Yet, as the COVID-19 pandemic roiled the country and upended social routines, supporting social well-being became even more challenging, including in rural areas. Social well-being was impacted most directly by the need to socially distance and isolate, and many people moved some or all their social activity online. However, this proved more challenging in rural areas, where broadband connectivity is less available and devices are less omnipresent, and for older adults, who generally report lower use of online technology than their younger counterparts.

In an April, 2022 report released by AP and NORC at the University of Chicago, rural adults age 50 and older reported the lowest level of satisfaction with available social activities in their community (only 38% thought the area they lived in was doing a good job at providing social activities, compared with 52% in urban areas and 55% in suburban areas, despite the fact that older adults make up a disproportionate share of rural residents). The survey also showed that rural residents reported lower satisfaction with transportation and availability of services to help them age in their own homes, compared with their urban and suburban counterparts.

They looked at the impact of broadband access and info…

We researched social opportunities in all 60 non-metropolitan counties in Minnesota, focusing most on those geared toward older adults. We found ample opportunities, but also variation between counties. Most – but not all – counties offer some combination of social infrastructure, including public libraries, senior centers, farmer’s markets, faith-based organizations (notably mostly Christian churches), American Legions and/or VFWs, and public parks. For some, there were community arts centers and hobby groups (e.g., quiltingfitness classes, bee keepingcardsgardeningcommunity theatermovie nightsbingophotographyfishingart classeswine tastingbook clubs).

Some counties and communities made it easy to find opportunities online. For example, the Todd County website listed a variety of opportunities and social infrastructure resources in an accessible, user-friendly fashion. This is good for residents looking for new ways to connect with each other, but is also important for loved ones who live out of town and are trying to find opportunities for those they care about. Many counties also have local news sources through which activities and events can be shared, although the availability and independence of those has decreased nationally in recent years, potentially making it more difficult to share local social opportunities.

Other counties and communities were much more opaque about social opportunities for older adults. Either the opportunities don’t exist, or, more likely, they organize by word of mouth or other forums. That begs the question, who might that be leaving out? How would newcomers to communities learn about social opportunities and connections, and how can out-of-town loved ones help their family members find ways to connect?

CTC and Crow Wing County pursue CARES funds for Crosby and Ironton MN

The Brainerd Dispatch reports on Crow Wing County and CTC and their pursuit of CARES funding for broadband…

Combined Notice of Finding of No Significant Impact and Notice of Intent to Request Release of Funds State of Minnesota Community Development Block Grant Coronavirus (CDBG-CV) Program

Date of posting: June 1, 2022 or Date of publication: June 1, 2022

Responsibility Entity: Crow Wing County, Minnesota 326 Laurel Street Brainerd, MN 56401 218-824-1067

Preparer: Consolidated Telephone Company 1102 Madison Street Brainerd, MN 56401 218-454-1234

TO ALL INTERESTED PARTIES, GROUPS AND PERSONS: The purpose of this notice is to identify two separate but related actions to be taken by the Crow Wing County, Minnesota (hereinafter referred to as the Grantee). One, the Grantee has made a Finding of No Significant Impact on project activities described below and two, the Grantee intends to request the Business and Community Development Division, Small Cities Development Program, Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED BCD) to release Community Development Block Grant Coronavirus (CDBG-CV) funds authorized by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) (PL166-136) for the following project. Pursuant to HUD CPD Notice 20-07 “Guidance on conducting environmental reviews pursuant to 24 CFR Part 58 for activities undertaken in response to the public health emergency as a result of COVID-19” this notice combines the public comment and objection periods into one 18-day comment period. CARES Act funding is needed on an emergency basis as projects funded with CARES Act funds are designed to prevent, prepare for, and respond to the Presidentially declared coronavirus health emergency. Project title or name: Crow Wing County CDBG-CV Broadband Development Project (CWC Broadband Project)

Describe the project in detail: Crow Wing County’s will swiftly deploy a fiber optic to the premise (FTTP) network to hundreds of low to moderate income residents within an area which was economically distressed pre-pandemic and even more so as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Just as some residents in the area were finding new work because of an increase in local tourism and storefront openings in the nearby cities of Crosby and Ironton, the pandemic shut down business and tourism… resulting in greater economic hardship and financial loss to many of the residents in the Cuyuna region. A lack of broadband infrastructure made distance learning virtually impossible for Crosby-Ironton School District (ISD 182) students and teachers in the area. Additionally, Cuyuna Regional Medical Center was unable to offer telehealth services to many of the patients it serves due to a lack of broadband. This project better prepares the residents in the project area for distance learning, telehealth, and work from home opportunities State justification on why this can be covered under an expedited review: HUD notice CPD-20-07 issued on August 6, 2020 provides guidance on conducting environmental reviews pursuant to 24 CFR Part 58 for activities undertaken in response to the public health emergency as a result of COVID-19.

Updated Matrix of Blandin Broadband Community Projects

Every year Blandin updates a list of Blandin-funded projects. It’s a fun list if you’re trying to brainstorm ideas for your own community. Here’s an abridged list:

  • Austin Area – Focus Groups with Traditionally Underrepresented Populations – Better understand the technology needs of diverse groups in the Austin Area by hosting a series of focus groups with underrepresented groups, including but not limited to senior citizens, non-English language speakers, and individuals with disabilities and their caregivers.
  • Austin Area –  Translation Software – Bridge the communication gap in the Austin Area through the use of translation software. Austin Public Schools currently serves families representing 45 home languages, and nearly 50% of students identify as a member of an ethnic minority. Translation assistance is needed throughout the community.
  • Austin Area – Public Access Privacy Rooms – Facilitate access to and use of technology through the creation of at least three “Zoom Rooms” strategically placed around the city that people can use to conduct private business including job interviews, parent-teacher meetings, medical appointments, etc.
  • Austin Area – Digital Literacy Training – Build digital literacy skills around the community by hosting digital literacy training classes. Targeted populations include the elderly, ESL families, and people wanting to improve their work skills. Austin Area Development Corporation of Austin Small Business Resiliency Through Technology Help small businesses innovate, update, and flourish by promoting the availability of Mower County’s micro-grant program. Participating small businesses will receive a technology assessment to pinpoint resiliency gaps in operations, marketing, or online presence, and have access to matching grants to address issues.
  • Austin Area – Community Tree Nursery – Promote the creative application of technology and address environmental justice by designing and constructing a gravel bed tree nursery to grow trees to augment loss associated with aging and dying trees throughout the community. The nursery will be used as an educational tool through videos, photos, and articles shared online.
  • Austin Area – Affordable Connectivity Program Promotion – Connect qualifying families to affordable internet service by promoting the Affordable Connectivity Program through various community engagement efforts, including assisting them with the application process.
  • Big Stone County – Smart Rooms – Expand technology access around the county by creating four Smart Rooms in four communities that residents can use for remote meetings, trainings, and connect with friends and family.
  • Big Stone County – Lakeside Apartment – Broadband Access Improve educational and career opportunities by ensuring low-income residents in public housing have access to computers and the internet. The project will expand Wi-Fi to the common areas of Lakeside Apartments for both building residents and residents of other public housing units in Ortonville.
  • Big Stone County – Assistance for Veterans – Increase access to educational opportunities and support services among veterans by offering technical literacy training.
  • Big Stone County – Training for Small Businesses and Organizations – Increase the sophistication of use of broadband to help small businesses and organizations, with a special emphasis on artists, sell and market their products and services.
  • Lincoln County – “At Home in Lincoln County” Website – Promote and market Lincoln County to residents and visitors by expanding the current countywide website to include a comprehensive overview of the county’s communities, resources for residents and visitors, business information, and events and activities.
  • Lincoln County – Ivanhoe Broadband Community Survey – Determine Ivanhoe residents’ satisfaction with current broadband offerings and gauge interest in a potential fiber optic network by conducting a community broadband survey.
  • Lincoln County – Public Wi-Fi – Access Increase access to the internet by providing public Wi-Fi access at parks and other spots where people gather around the county.
  • Lincoln County – Internet Safety Programs – Educate parents, students, and community members on internet safety by conducting training programs on Social Media Safety and Internet Fraud and Scams.
  • Mahnomen County – Conference Room Tech Upgrades – Improve the effectiveness and efficiency of community meetings by upgrading technology in the Mahnomen City Hall conference room, allowing them to host virtual meetings. The room will continue to be available to various community organizations.
  • Mahnomen County – Youth Asset Map – Build new technology knowledge and skills among youth in 4-6 th grades by conducting workshops where students will create 3-5 informational QR spots around Mahnomen educating visitors about attractions and traditions.
  • Mahnomen County – Food Shelf Computers and Inventory Software – Improve the efficiency of Helping Hands Food Shelf and improve access to food for community members by providing a computer and implementing a software program to track inventory and use, including allowing clients to pre-order food.
  • Mahnomen County – Library Technology – Upgrade Increase library-users’ access to technology through the purchase of a new machine capable of color printing, copying, scanning, and faxing.
  • Mahnomen County – Co-Working Services Launch – Provide support and services for entrepreneurs and small business owners by providing free access for two years to the co-working space for White Earth Nation tribal members and other qualifying Mahnomen County entrepreneurs.

Cooperative recipe for building a private wireless network for precision ag costs $50,000 per farm and $6,000 annually

Telecompetitor reports

A new report from CoBank’s Knowledge Exchange Division estimates the upfront cost of deploying a private wireless network to support precision agriculture at $50,000 per farm if deployed through one of the nation’s farm supply cooperatives. The annual recurring cost per farm would be about $6,000, according to CoBank.

“Agricultural cooperatives are in an ideal position to build and deliver carrier-grade, high-speed private wireless networks to their farmer members,” the report observes.

The cooperatives exist to serve the needs of their farmer members and have “institutionalized knowledge of farming operations,” according to the report authors, who see private wireless networks as an opportunity for the cooperatives to develop “new and diverse revenue sources that depend less on turbulent ag commodity and fuel prices.”

The CoBank report cites two key enablers of the private wireless precision agriculture opportunity. One is the availability of a large swath of CBRS spectrum, some of which is unlicensed. The other is the availability of carrier-grade equipment that can be deployed for use by a single entity.

The CoBank estimate of the per-farm cost of private wireless for precision agriculture assumes that 50 farms share network core costs of about $225,000. Considering that the average agricultural cooperative has about 1,000 members, this would mean that about 5% of the farmers in the cooperative would need to participate.

After two days traveling in rural Western MN, I can appreciate the need for investment. Cell coverage is better than is used to be out there, but it’s not consistently great. But listening to the local radio, I hear the stories and concerns about food safety and technology will definitely play a role in keeping food safe!

After 12 years the Computer Commuter rides into the sunset (LqP County)

Mary Magnuson and I finished our tour of Western MN, with a final visit to the LqP Computer Commuter, a mobile computer lab and classroom that has been touring 6 sites a week around Lac qui Parle County. In 12 years, they have served about 500 people out of a county of 7,000. It received early funding from the Blandin Foundation. We thought it might be around for 5 years tops but Mary Quick has kept it running well past expected lifespan.

Mary drives the tricked out former hotel van around helping people use technology. Originally, the bus served a lot of students with new computers and free printing but in the last few years the patrons have aged. While we were in the library, Mary and I heard from the librarian that she had spent time in the Computer Commuter using the CC computer to watch videos while trying to learn new software on her own laptop. So many people have great stories like that. In fact, if you have a grandparent from LqP who knows how to use Zoom, you can probably thank Mary!

Many of the patrons have helped keep the Computer Commuter going the last few years with donations and generous memorial donations. Mary is moving out of the area but, as she says in the video, she’s there to help anyone who is interested in a similar project in their community.

Madison Mercantile: When broadband makes community easier (LqP County)

On our trip to Western Minnesota, Mary Magnuson and I stopped in to visit the Madison Mercantile. The folks at the UMVRDC (Upper Minnesota River Valley Regional Development Commission) had clued us into the interesting things they were doing. And while this isn’t a broadband-forward project, it’s an example of what folks can do when broadband is ample and the community is engaged – in part because they have been connected, even during the pandemic, via broadband.

The Madison Mercantile is a coffee shop, art gallery innovation center built in a rehabbed hardware store. The footprint is huge. We walked in and saw tables people chatting, art and the coffee shop. The proprietor/creator Kris Shelstad immediately apologized for the mess. (She was working on replacing part of a carpet.)  Then she quit what she was doing and gave us the whole tour, with backstory, despite the fact that she had no idea of who we were.

As briefly as possible, Kris is originally from the area. She moved away to Austin TX, joined the army, got married and a couple years ago lost her spouse. That led her back home, but she missed the scene in Austin. So, she decided to create the same opportunities for art and beer and music and community by buying out the old hardware store. She started to rehab it based on the needs of the community, ways to minimize heat bills and her vision. Her vision included creating a space to showcase art left to her from her friend Janice Anderson. Janice’s art is mixed media collage with an eye for color nuances, clever messaging and inherently rural appeal. It feels like through Kris, Janice is helping boost and nurture a local art scene.

Along with a couple of art galleries, the space hosts local musicians and serves as a “third space” community center. You can pop in for coffee or you can host your birthday party. There are spaces for local discussions and classes. In fact, when we were there a group of local entrepreneurs gathered to talk about using social media. (Funny enough, I recognized one entrepreneur from a social media class I taught in the area 10 years ago!)

There’s also a maker space or innovation center. It created itself because retired farmers from the community, who used to hang out at the hardware store kept showing up wondering if Kris needed any help or time to chat. Kris recognized the need and opportunity and made room. There’s also a museum of medical supplies like walkers and wheelchairs, which folks can borrow as needed. Apparently the 90 year old woman, who used to lend these from her home, donated them.

There are also plans for public computer access, a wellness center and Zoom room. If you are in the area, you will have to check it out. It’s the best example of a bottom up solution I’ve seen. Kris told us that she decided that for one year she’d say yes to everything. She has and she’s tired but man is that a cool center and it can’t help but engage community!

Bemidji’s broadband leaves them poised to succeed – says Dave Hengel

Bemidji Pioneer posts a column from Dave Hengel, executive director of Greater Bemidji Economic Development, on the importance of technology and broadband for a thriving community…

The primary driver has been technology, which has created both incredible opportunities and challenges for communities worldwide. Since technology has allowed both businesses and people to locate virtually anywhere, geography (where we are located on a map) matters less, and place (a community’s character and quality of life) matters more. …

Thanks to technological innovations, none of these matters as much. We aren’t remote — we are connected via Zoom and other technology. We have access to metropolitan markets and resources all with the click of a mouse. While logistics have not reduced in importance, our largest “interstate” is our broadband network.

And let me remind everyone, the greater Bemidji region has the best all-fiber network in the nation. Thanks to the investment over the past decade by Paul Bunyan Communications, every home and business in our region has up to 10-gigabit service while other communities (including metropolitan areas) are struggling to gain basic broadband service.

In other words, Bemidji is ahead of the game.

Today, great communities are built, not born. The assets that bring prosperity and economic growth are not inherited. Like our all-fiber broadband network, key quality of life and economic development amenities can be identified and built.

Wi-Fi On School Buses Eligible For E-Rate Funding

From a speech from FCC Chairwoman Rosenworcel to the National Coalition for Technology in Education and Training as summarized by the Benton Institute for Broadband and Society...

For more than two decades, E-Rate has provided vital support to help connect schools and libraries to high-speed, modern communications all across the country. It got its start as part of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. Over 25 million children take the bus to school every day. In rural areas that ride can be long. It can easily be an hour to school and an hour to return home at the end of the day. It’s good for young people to spend some time daydreaming, decompressing, and talking to friends, but wouldn’t it be nice if kids had the option of using this time to connect for homework? The good news is we have a workable, common-sense solution. We can connect our school buses and make them Wi-Fi-enabled—think of it as Wi-Fi on wheels. I am proposing a plan to my colleagues to make Wi-Fi on school buses eligible for E-Rate support. This is not a far leap to make. It’s both consistent with the law and the history of the program. After all, for many years E-Rate supported the use of communications for school buses—like wireless phones used by drivers—when shepherding students to and from school.

Grand Marais broadband project nominated for national award

From The Ranger newsletter

Grand Marais broadband project nominated for national award
Arrowhead Intelligent Region (AIR) is a broadband partnership that was launched last year between Blandin Foundation, Northland Foundation and Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation. The trio made available a pool of grant funds for local organizations working to support a broadband-fueled economy in northeastern Minnesota.

Minnesota Children’s Press of Grand Marais was awarded a $35,000 grant from the funding pool to deliver broadband education services. Children’s Press launched Litter Lab, a program designed to teach elementary aged children how to use technology to help solve a community litter problem with the potential to pollute Lake Superior.

Approximately 65 children ages 5 to 13 collected litter last summer in the harbor area of downtown Grand Marias. The children sorted, categorized and inventoried the litter according to the GPS coordinates where it was found. Some of the categories included clothing, food packaging, plastic bottles and containers, general paper products, and hygiene products such as plastic dental picks. Their field data was then entered into ArcGIS, an advanced online GIS engineering platform made by Esri that uses interactive maps and data-driven analysis tools that rely on top-tier broadband service to manage  data. ArcGIS produced reports that considered the types of litter,  coordinates of the litter’s location and proximity of nearby trash and recycling receptacles. From the reports, the kids could develop hypotheses about why litter was more prevalent in certain areas of the harbor. They also theorized about alternate, less bulky and non-plastic packaging design and options for some of the more commonly found items such as drink cups and bottles.

“As the project progressed, the kids began to see themselves as problem-solvers,” said Anne Brataas, founder of Minnesota Children’s Press. “The report data spurred great group discussions about effective placement of community trash receptacles, size and shapes of receptacles to accommodate varying sizes of waste items, and potential solutions for reducing litter.”

Brataas believes the success of the Grand Marais project could prompt the concept spreading into other communities across northeastern Minnesota. Communities can use the data and reports to make decisions about community recycling and the placement, design and signage for public trash receptacles. It could also lead to a mass rethink of how people stay hydrated such as bottle-refilling stations to reduce the amount of single-use plastic water bottles.

Littler Lab will be recognized at the Esri Education Summit on July 10 in San Diego, California. Brataas was chosen to present preliminary findings of the Grand Marais project,  “Kids Thinking Spatially, Acting Sustainably” at the annual Esri conference during the session titled Building Environmental Literacy Through Experiential Learning.

“Litter Lab is an excellent example of how technology in northeastern Minnesota can be used to creatively solve community problems,” said Whitney Ridlon, Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation community development representative. “It engaged the youngest of our rural population in the broadband economy by showing them how technology and internet connectivity can be used for the betterment of their very own community.”

Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation supported the AIR broadband initiative with $150,000 in Development Partnership grants. For more information email Whitney Ridlon at Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation or call her at 218-735-3004.

Mankato Clinic expands virtual care across 13 facilities (Blue Earth County)

PR Newswire reports

 Bluestream Health, a virtual care Platform-as-a-Service, has enabled access to virtual care for Mankato Clinic’s 13 healthcare facilities across four rural communities in southern Minnesota.

Bluestream Health’s virtual care platform provides access for patients to Mankato Clinic’s full spectrum of health specialties, services, and programs for primary care to care management to pediatrics. Bluestream Health is also providing interpreting services to patients through the virtual platform.

FirstNet, Built with AT&T is Connecting More First Responders Across Minnesota

A recap of sorts from AT&T about FirstNet…

What’s the news? AT&T* is America’s public safety communications partner. In the nearly 5 years since we were selected by the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet Authority) to build and operate FirstNet®, we have moved quickly to bring more coverage, boost capacity and drive new capabilities for Minnesota first responders and the communities they serve – rural, urban and tribal.

Today, we cover nearly all of the state with FirstNet, Built with AT&T – helping to connect public safety agencies and organizations in more than 190 communities across Minnesota. That’s why we’re focused on increasing network capacity for Minnesota public safety by deploying Band 14 spectrum – nationwide, high-quality spectrum set aside by the federal government specifically for FirstNet. We’ve rolled out Band 14 on more than 800 sites across Minnesota to provide public safety with truly dedicated coverage and capacity when they need it. Areas currently benefitting from Band 14 include Minneapolis, St. Paul, Duluth, Rochester, St. Cloud, Goodhue, Mankato, Baudette, Brainerd, Baxter, Chippewa County, the Iron Range and Angle Inlet.

And more Minnesota first responders are gaining access to a one-of-a-kind 5G experience on FirstNet. 5G connectivity on FirstNet is now available in Minneapolis. Public safety also has access to 5G+ (mmWave) spectrum in Minneapolis, including at the Target Center and U.S. Bank Stadium. And we’re continuing to roll out additional 5G connectivity for FirstNet in more communities nationwide.

But we aren’t stopping there. The FCC estimates that over 10,000 lives could be saved each year if public safety were able to reach callers just 1 minute faster. And since 80% of wireless calls take place indoors, in-building dedicated public safety connectivity is essential to public safety operations and overall safety. That’s why we are collaborating with Safer Building Coalition, the nation’s leading industry advocacy group focused on advancing policies, ideas, and technologies that ensure effective in-building communications capabilities for public safety personnel and the people they serve.

Why is this important? No connection is more important than one that could help save a life. Today, FirstNet is solving for common and long-standing communications challenges that first responders face – things like interoperability, network congestion and commercial network providers slowing public safety’s data connection. It’s giving them superior coverage for day-to-day response and life-saving missions. While commercial wireless offerings remain available to public safety, FirstNet continues to grow because it offers distinct advantages from those commercial offerings. FirstNet comes with unique features, functionality and dedicated spectrum when needed for the public safety community. That’s why public safety fought for their own, separate, dedicated platform, championing the vision that led to the creation of FirstNet.

How does this help bridge the digital divide? The FirstNet network expansion is one way we are helping ensure all of public safety – and the communities they serve – have access to critical connectivity to help meet the urgent challenges of today and tomorrow. We already cover more than 99% of the U.S. population today, but FirstNet is built for all public safety. That means every first responder – career or volunteer; federal, tribal, state or local; urban, suburban or rural.

Lincoln County students learn about downsides of Internet and Social media

I’m thankful to the Tyler Tribute for letting me reprint their article on a recent meeting of students and lawyers about some tricky areas of internet and social media use by teens. I have done similar training in the past so I know how important it is. Often kids are given a very powerful tool with limited safety training, which can be dangerous. Lincoln County schools (with help from the Blandin Foundation) found a way to open dialogue…

Three schools gather at RTR for assembly on downside of the internet

Tuesday, March 22 the students in grades 5-8 from RTR Public school, along with Hendricks Middle School and Lake Benton Elementary, met in the RTR Performing Arts Center for an informative meeting about

the downside of the internet. The presentation was given by Joshua Heggem and Kristi Hastings of Pemberton Law Firm, located in Fergus Falls. The presentation was brought to the schools by the efforts of the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Department.

Hastings has represented numerous school districts for many years and talked about social media, technology and mistakes that other kids have made on social media that in turn will hopefully be a good learning tool to

prevent kids making these mistakes themselves.

This presentation came about as a response to the amount of cases they were seeing coming in, “When we started this, it came about because we were seeing so many disciplinary things coming across our desks. Expulsions and other serious consequences; Three kids getting kicked out of sports they love playing because of mistakes they were making on social media,” Hastings told the group. They came up with this presentation with a desire to get ahead of the rise they were seeing in cases based around social media, bullying using social media, and technology use and the dangers it presents.

Statistically, 97% of all kids in grades 5-8 are using social media of some sort every day. “I’m a huge fan of social media myself, so you’re not going to hear that it’s bad or that you shouldn’t use it at all because there are so many positive things that come with social media—the ability to connect with people all over the world, communicate with family and friends—these are all positive things that prior generations didn’t have.”

Hastings went on, “We are just focusing on the downside of social media and unfortunately, as lawyers, we see a lot of it.” Joshua Heggem shared a story of how quickly things can happen when social media is involved. “An instance I had once; a group of seventh graders who had made a Snapchat group for their class—they made it with the intent of bullying one classmate.

During these hateful comments aimed at the student, someone said they were going to put a hit out on the classmate. Within hours there were sheriffs at the school interrogating kids for terroristic threats.” Heggem recanted to the kids, “Some kids were charged with crimes; kids were getting suspended. The kid who made the threat, I believe was expelled from school.” Heggem made it clear that expulsion comes with heavy consequences, “That means you can’t set foot on school grounds, you can’t play any sports, you can’t even go to a sporting event, you can’t go to the football field.” Along with all those who faced charges and school consequences, there were also kids that needed mental health services after the ordeal, including the child who had been the subject of the bullying. Even if the kid who said the threat never meant it, the words were still out there on social media and have to be taken seriously. Heggem made it clear to the kids that things can’t be taken back once said on social media no matter how safe or secure you think it is. Hastings touched on things that don’t happen on school grounds; for instance, a kid initiating a fight at the park across the street of the school as opposed to on school grounds. “These school rules follow you when you are at a school sponsored event, when you’re here on school grounds, but also when you do things that negatively impact other kids’ ability to come here and learn,” Hastings explained.

This brought them to the next topic, “We do have a state law here in Minnesota that prohibits bullying of your classmates; things that are intimidating, threatening, abusive or harmful,” Hastings touched on. “Any bullying

that you carry over online is treated the same way. So, for instance, if you push a kid into a locker, that is the equivalent of bullying online and will carry the same punishment.”

They brought up “group thought” which is the concept that someone comes up with an idea and the group just goes along with it. “It happens a lot in our school cultures and climates because kids have not fully developed. Often times, the ability to say no I’m not interested in that idea/activity,” Hastings explained. An example used was one of another small school in Oakes, North Dakota which gained national news recognition.

“They had a tradition there of making a straw man before the homecoming game every year. So they would make the straw man and then burn it in a bonfire and then play their game,” Hastings told the kids. “A couple of

years ago, someone in a group came up with an idea—let’s make a noose and hang the straw man. Then someone comes up with the idea to put a jersey on it. Well, they put the number of the only player that is a person of color for the other team on the jersey. Someone in the group took a video of it, probably shared it with their close friends and contacts and someone recognized it was quite racist and it made national headlines. What it does, is it makes the world look at your school and question who lives there, what are they teaching here,” Hastings further explained to the kids.

The presentation touched on many topics that kids today are coming in contact with more and more every day—things like sending/receiving nude photos being a technical form of child pornography which is punishable by law, sharing pictures of your friends as a joke from the locker room is a form of privacy invasion and punishable by law. All the topics were relevant and appropriate.

Another presentation was given for the high school grades 9-12, after the middle school was done as it is a topic of discussion worth having from middle school on.