Arrowhead Regional Development Commission learn about local broadband options

Today Bill Coleman talked about broadband with local officials serving on the Arrowhead Regional Development Commission (ARDC). They have board members that represent local units of government, including townships, cities, counties, tribal governments and school districts as well as citizen at large members.

The Arrowhead Region covers the most territory of any Minnesota region.The region has seen extensive fiber to the home network deployment, primarily by Paul Bunyan Communications, Arrowhead Electric, Lake County and, most recently, the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa.  Additional groups are working, through collaboration and innovation, to improve broadband services.

Bill noted that with relatively low population densities spread across heavily forested and mineral rich counties, these are some of the most challenging areas in the state in which to provide broadband services.  Projects in the area have benefited from strong community leadership and both federal and state broadband funds.

Wilkin Commissioner testifies for rural broadband funding

The Wahpeton Daily News reports…

Wilkin County Commissioner Eric Klindt traveled to the Capitol in St. Paul, Minnesota, Thursday, April 12 to share with lawmakers the importance of having high-speed Internet in rural areas of the state.

He was there as a guest of Dan Larson, executive director of Minnesota Rural Counties, which is requesting $51.48 million this year to fund the Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant program. The state wants to meet its broadband speed goals of 100Mbps/20Mbps upload to all homes and businesses by 2026.

He spoke from personal experience…

Klindt’s experience with Internet service, though, has been frustrating. He used a wireless service for years, but it was slow. He said it would take several minutes for a map to load, when it should only take seconds. Access to weather maps and airplane tracking services are essential for him. He switched to satellite service for Internet, but it’s more expensive and his household uses up a month’s worth of data in just a week. Also, the slightest snow flurry can block the signal.

On Thursday he had only 90 seconds to get his point across to the House of Representatives’ Job Growth and Energy Affordability Policy and Finance Committee. He held up his iPad showing the downloading image he sees for minutes at a time when trying to access the Internet at home in rural Minnesota.

“I told them, this is what I experience at home. If we’re doing a video chat, I can hear you but can’t see you,” he explained, saying he used the tablet as a prop to illustrate how frustrating it is.

“In my household, there are four of us, two adults and two kids – ages 10 and 13,” he told the Daily News Media later that afternoon. “My whole (month’s) data was used up in eight days. I would have been better off staying with wireless, which was unlimited, but at a rate of just 4 megabytes per second.”

Are you ready for Digital Inclusion Week May 7-11?

Borrowing heavily from the NDIA website – with an emphasis on let’s get some Minnesota events on their radar…

Digital Inclusion Week 2018 will happen May 7-11, and you can join this nationwide event online and on the ground to share what is going on in your community.  DIW2018 is sponsored by the National Digital Inclusion Alliance representing more than 300 affiliated organizations in 38 states that work toward digital equity.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Create or find an event in your area that builds inclusion by providing computer training, media literacy, affordable devices or internet access to people on the wrong side of the “digital divide” – or builds public awareness about it.
  2. Connect with colleagues around the country to share ideas through our mailing list.
  3. From May 7-11, use hashtags #digitalinclusion, #DIW2018, and #digitalequityis______ to join the conversation and celebrate progress.

Livestream of Net Inclusion 2018 Plenaries April 18

Net Inclusion is a fantastic conference – I’m pleased to see that two of their sessions will be livestreamed this week…

Livestream of Net Inclusion 2018 Plenaries

Thanks to Digital Charlotte, we will be live-streaming two Net Inclusion 2018 plenaries on Wednesday April 18.

Net Inclusion 2018 Keynote Plenary
Wednesday April 18, 3:15-4:45 EDT
Maria Smith from Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society and Karen Heredia from the New Media Advocacy Project will introduce “Dividing Lines”, a new video highlighting the impact of Internet access disparities in American communities. Professor Crawford will speak on the role of public regulation in helping or hindering equitable access to information technology in the U.S. Professor Crawford will then join a panel with digital inclusion practitioners  Bobby Coulter of Fresno Housing Authority and Elizabeth Lindsey of Byte Back. Moderated by Angela Siefer, the panel will discussion how communities are addressing these digital inequity disparities with and without government support. Livestream will be available at https://www.digitalinclusion.org/keynote2018/.

Net Inclusion 2018 Fireside Chat
Wednesday April 18, 12:15-1:00 EDT
Is a city a “smart city” if portions of the populations do not have broadband at home or the digital skills necessary to thrive today? Mayor Sly James and Catherine Crago will discuss the responsibilities and strategies of local governments to increase digital equity within the context of a “smart city”. They will focus on digital inclusion for the most vulnerable members of our communities. Livestream will be available at https://www.digitalinclusion.org/fireside2018/.

Minnesotans are asked to take the Digital Readiness Survey

Better info is always better! Help the digital numbers be better in just a few minutes…

Research will measure Minnesotans’ online access and skills to inform economic development

Minnesotans are asked to take the Digital Readiness Survey

Grand Rapids, MINN. (April 12, 2018) – Communities across Minnesota rely on high-speed Internet access to compete in today’s economy, yet critical gaps exist. Rural Minnesotans have an opportunity to help identify those gaps through the Digital Readiness Survey, offered by the Purdue Center for Regional Development.

Supported by Blandin Foundation and Growth & Justice, all Minnesotans are invited to take the survey. The 20-question survey will take less than 10 minutes to complete and is available at https://goo.gl/ZHfAyK.

Broadband access – and the ability to use it – are fundamental to healthy, resilient communities,” said Blandin Foundation President and CEO Dr. Kathleen Annette. “This research will assist leaders in identifying where Internet gaps exist and help them plan for the future.”

Results from the survey will gauge how Minnesotans are using the Internet, where they are accessing the Internet, and their comfort using an array of technologies. Combined results will be released to help jumpstart meaningful conversations and help guide economic development decisions.

“Taking the Digital Readiness Survey will help us better understand the economic impact of broadband investments and also see the gaps remaining,” said Growth & Justice President Jane Leonard. “Most importantly, what we learn from the survey results will help catalyze more intentional strategies for community and economic development, strategies that close the gaps in access and know-how, keep the economic impact rippling and growing, and keep talent in and coming to our communities and businesses. Those outcomes benefit all of us and keep Minnesota vital and growing.”

The survey will be available until May 11, 2018.  Results will be available Fall 2018 at https://www.pcrd.purdue.edu/index.php.

Sen. Tina Smith Introduces Bill to Deploy Broadband to Unserved Rural and Tribal Communities

From Senator Smith’s office…

Senator’s Legislation Would Establish and Improve Upon the Department of Agriculture Community Connect Grant Program

WASHINGTON, D.C. [04/12/18]—Today, U.S. Sen. Tina Smith (D-Minn.) introduced legislation—the Community Connect Grant Program Act—to establish the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) program under law and make improvements to the grant program that makes funding available for broadband projects in tribal, low-income, and remote rural areas.

The USDA Community Connect program through the Rural Utilities Service (RUS) helps fund broadband deployment into rural communities. In addition to authorizing the program and targeting areas that lack access across the nation, Sen. Smith’s bill would increase internet speed service under the program because she hears time and time again that this is a real concern for Minnesotans.

“Broadband is the infrastructure of the 21st Century—it isn’t just nice, it’s necessary if we’re going to build an economy that works for everyone,” said Sen. Smith. “It is absolutely necessary whether you’re a student working on homework, a business owner selling products, a farmer using modern equipment, or a person who is trying to access health care. My bill is a step forward and one of the many things we have to do in order to connect more Minnesotans and people across the nation with affordable, reliable internet service.”
The Community Connect Grant Program Act would:

  • Provide grants to construct, acquire, or lease facilities—including spectrum, land, or buildings—to deploy broadband service.
  • Modernize minimum speed service to coordinate with the Federal Communications Commission and keep pace with 21st Century needs.
  • Provide essential community facilities—like fire stations and public schools—with service for up to two years.
  • A portion of the grant funding may also be used to improve, expand, construct, or acquire a community center within the proposed service area to provide community access.
  • Avoid duplicating deployment efforts by not building over existing broadband networks, responsibly investing federal funding and taxpayer money.
  • Authorize funding for Community Connect grants at $50 million per fiscal year.

You can learn more about the Community Grant Program Act here.

Libraries lending mobile hotspots – the why and how?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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