Comcast Internet Essential now available to Low-Income Vets

CED Magazine reports…

This year, Comcast is expanding eligibility to Internet Essentials to all low-income veterans living in the operator’s service footprint, which it estimates covers about 1 million eligible veterans.

The article details more of the program…

During a press conference call on Monday, Comcast’s Senior EVP and Chief Diversity Officer David Cohen said the Internet Essentials program, which provides high-speed internet service for $9.95 per month plus tax to eligible customers, is the most successful internet adoption program, outpacing other initiatives by 10 times.


The program has made enhancements each year, with more than 35 in all. Last year, Comcast expanded eligibility to include more families with school age children, those receiving HUD housing assistance, and low income seniors in select markets. It also increased the program’s service speed to 15 Mbps down and 2 Mbps up.

The FCC has designated the national broadband standard at 25 Mbps download speeds, though Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel recently said she believes that should be upped to 100 Mbps.

The big news is the popularity of the program…

In its seventh year running, Comcast’s program to provide low-income Americans with less expensive internet access has now connected 6 million people across the country.

And it’s good to think of people getting broadband for reduced rates. It would also be good to see them get it at the 25/3 rate mentioned above and to see the FCC increase the speed definition.

Fire damages high school so kids will be going online for some classes

Bring me the News reports on the results of fire damage in a school in St Cloud…

Apollo High School in St. Cloud is facing an unusual set of challenges due to a fire that damaged parts of the school in July.

The July 11 fire started in a classroom and caused significant smoke damage throughout the school. Last week, health inspectors informed school officials that parts of the school will not be ready for the start of the upcoming school year.

But they have a plan to go online…

“We will begin the school year on an alternate day schedule,” said District 742 Superintendent Willie Jet on Monday. “This means that students will rotate the days they will physically attend Apollo. Students not at Apollo will engage in on-line learning directed by their classroom teachers. Fortunately, every high school student is provided with a one-to-one device which makes this opportunity possible.”!

Jett said they worked with the Minnesota Department of Education and schools around the state that have experienced “similar catastrophic situations” to come up with the plan.

I was worried that plan was going to be a hardship for families that didn’t have broadband access at home, but it turns out they have a plan…

Students that don’t have access to Wi-Fi outside of school will be provided with hotspot devices, according to Apollo Principal Al Johnson.

Wouldn’t it be nice if those families got to keep the hotspots even once the school is ready for a full schedule of students? Imagine how nice it owudl be for them to do homework from home.


Adoption is decreasing in rural areas. Benefit of broadband comes from access and use

Roberto Gallardo just released info on broadband adoption in rural, urban and suburban areas. There are lots of caveats to the research – it’s from 2015-2016, based on geographic definitions from 2010 and adoption means accessing broadband at speeds of 10 Mbps down and a1 Mbps up. BUT those are the best numbers out there right now.

So first the good news – adoption rates are improving…

In 2016, 15.4 percent or 48.9 million people lived in low adoption neighborhoods, down from almost one-fifth in 2015. So, yes an improvement.

Then the bad news – that improvement has not been evenly distributed. I think his chart makes this info most accessible. He shows levels of low adoption in rural, urban and suburban areas. As you can see below, low adoption decreased in urban and suburban areas but increased in rural areas.

Here’s where having that lower speed definition of broadband helps focus the attention on adoption. According to the Office of Broadband Development 94+ percent of Minnesota households have access to 10/1 speeds. That hasn’t decreased. Access isn’t an issue. The issue is helping people realize the value of broadband. Helping them learn how to use it.

Digital Inclusion projects in the Twin Cities – including a look at broadband equity

Today I attended a presentation of CTEP (techie AmeriCorps) members working with SPNN (St Paul Neighborhood Network). They all work on digital inclusion or equity projects. I love hearing about all of the projects. I’ve included their notes below on all of the presentations. Lots of good ideas.

And here’s a video on the presentation on broadband in Minneapolis. I met with these folks a couple of times. It was interesting to see them put their arms around such a big topic. A big issue for them is affordability and speeds available in certain neighborhoods. They created a great video on the need for broadband equity and they were able to have input in the Minneapolis Plan for 2040.


Naturally Bridging the Digital Divide
Conducted a week-long day camp focusing on urban agriculture and media skills. Introduced youth to the technology in urban farming as well as expand their knowledge of food sources in the Twin Cities, and then provided a platform for youth to share their experiences through digital storytelling.
Community Partners: SparkY, University of Minnesota Cornercopia Organic Farm

Broadband in Minneapolis: Closing the Digital Divide
Created a short documentary and recommendations for equitable fiber internet access in Minneapolis through meetings with city officials, private internet providers, and other key stakeholders.
Community Partners: Various

CTEP Resource Consolidation
Overhauled CTEP’s internal online information structure, with the goal of streamlining and updating online resources onto SPNN’s website for the benefit of CTEP members and participants alike.
Community Partner:  SPNN

Saving Cents with Sense
Provided a series of short classes on various digital financial concepts, such as using Microsoft Excel and checking credit scores online. The workshops sought to educate those who may not have benefitted from personal finance classes or a financial mentor.
Community Partners: Volunteers of America, Hubbs Center for Lifelong Learning

Field Testing Northstar Digital Literacy Assessments
Assisted in the redesign of the Northstar Digital Literacy assessments and engaged in field testing with local community members. Students at CTEP sites gave valuable user feedback for the  development team.
Community Partner: Northstar Digital Literacy Project

Re-Entering the Digital World: Computers for Formerly Incarcerated Individuals
Taught a series of computer classes to formerly incarcerated adults at Amicus, an organization that provides resources for people recently exiting the correctional system.
Community Partner: Amicus

Diversity and Inclusion in CTEP AmeriCorps
Began developing a diversity and inclusion framework for CTEP AmeriCorps to increase diversity and inclusion. Conducted focus groups with CTEP alumni to identify D&I strengths and weaknesses, and to get input towards a nascent advisory board.
Community Partner: SPNN, CTEP Alumni

The Rondo History Preservation Project
Worked with the Hallie Q. Brown Center in St. Paul to record and preserve oral histories regarding the historic Rondo neighborhood, and conducted media training for staff to be able to carry on the work.
Community Partner: Hallie Q. Brown Center

Catching up with broadband projects in Aitkin MN: Hotspots that have encouraged private investment in FTTH, landing page, training

Today we’re in Aitkin talking with people about their broadband projects.  They have been part of a project (IRBC) with the Blandin Foundation and IRRRB focused on increasing use of broadband in the area. I’ll include full notes below – but a couple of highlights…

We learned that when people don’t have broadband, that’s all they want to talk about. The broadband expansions in the area have made a huge difference. This was an area that lacked access so effort has been spent on increasing access with hotspots in the library, buses, for checkout and in community centers. It’s been nice to se private investment follow the interest in the hotspots. There have also been efforts, such as remote training and a landing page that encourage use.

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Free Webinar – : Statewide Strategies for Rural Digital Inclusion – July 18

Looks like something that might interest some readers…

You are invited to join NTIA’s BroadbandUSA Practical Broadband Conversations Webinar:

 Topic: Statewide Strategies for Rural Digital Inclusion


Date:   Wednesday, July 18, 2018
Time:  2:00 to 3:00 p.m. ET


Overview: This month, the BroadbandUSA webinar will focus on statewide strategies to promote broadband adoption and use in rural communities. Speakers will highlight the role of state governments, libraries and university extension programs in planning and executing these strategies. The speakers will also discuss the role of broadband adoption in rural economic and workforce development, as well as approaches to facilitate broadband use and improve digital skills.




  • Rachel Welborn, Associate Director, Southern Rural Development Center
  • Amy Huffman, Research and Policy Specialist, The Broadband Infrastructure Office, North Carolina Department of Information Technology
  • Susan McVey, Director, Oklahoma Department of Libraries
  • Moderator: Emy Tseng, Senior Program Specialist, BroadbandUSA, NTIA

Please pre-register for the webinar using this registration link.   After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

Want to access past Practical Broadband Conversations webinars? Visit our webinar archives for past presentations, transcripts and audio recordings.

Mille Lacs Energy Cooperative (MLEC) speaks eloquently on need for rural broadband

The Aitkin Age wrote about the USDA/Farmers Foundation meeting I attended last month. They focused on comments from CEO of Mille Lacs Energy Cooperative (MLEC), Brian Zelenak…

The electric and telephone cooperatives teamed up and received a $1.7 million Border-to-Border project grant in 2017 from the Minnesota Office of Broadband Development for a project in southern Aitkin County.

The grant has been used to install fiber from MLEC headquarters in Aitkin, past about 800 homes, ending at MLEC’s Spirit Lake substation. Approximately 400 members are signed up and 180 members are connected at speeds up to 1 Gig up/1 Gig down, which accounts for close to a 50 percent take rate. This is significant, Zelenak explained, because 45 percent of MLEC’s 15,000 members are seasonal.

“Aitkin County has the highest senior citizen rate of any county in Minnesota,” Zelenak said. “Keeping our aging population in their homes longer through the use of telemedicine will increase their quality of life and reduce their exodus to neighboring cities and towns.”

MLEC recognizes the importance of high speed internet service so its rural members have access to the same educational opportunities for children and adults wanting to further their education and training.

“Rural school children are at a competitive disadvantage when trying to get into colleges and trade schools,” Zelenak said.

Lack of sufficient high speed internet also hinders opportunities for increased economic development and jobs for rural communities.

“High speed internet access is a deal breaker for those working from home or starting a home-based business, and for manufacturing companies or other businesses to locate here,” Zelenak said. “Economic development does not exist without high speed internet access.”

According to Zelenak, broadband is as transformative to rural communities today as electricity was 80 years ago. “MLEC does not see rural Minnesota growing and prospering without the basics, and the basics are becoming good internet access.”