Lifeline Broadband Update Webinar Feb 21

Promises to be a good discussion from NDIA (National Digital Inclusion Alliance)…

The addition of broadband service to Lifeline occurred in December.  NDIA affiliates spend a lot of time and energy  searching for and keeping track of low-cost broadband offers for their community members.  We are at the very early stages of implementation of the new Lifeline program and this webinar is a check-in for where we are now and the current trajectory for the modernization changes.

Save the date now for a conversation about Lifeline broadband featuring Olivia Wein, attorney with the National Consumer Law Center.

This special NDIA webinar  will take place…

February 21, 2017
1:00-2:00 Eastern
at https://zoom.us/j/4320943209

No RSVP is required.

I’ll set the stage with an update on low-cost broadband offers available, how the different offers were mandated, and how you can find information on the offers.  Olivia will discuss:

  • Which ISPs must offer a Lifeline broadband service? How does one determine if an ISP has a Lifeline obligation and in what geographic regions must they provide service?
  • Who else can be a Lifeline Broadband Provider?
  • What are the minimum service standards for wireless and wireline providers?
  • How does one apply for Lifeline? What is the current process for signing up and how will that change when the verification platform is live? What are the timelines for the new enrollment process?

Please join us for this important discussion!

New Pew Report: tracking the rise of technology use from 2000 to 2016

It’s interesting to see the trajectories of use of technologies in the last 15 years in Pew’s latest report on technology use. The graph below really spells most of it out…

pew-technology-use

The report also highlights four observations…

  1. Roughly three-quarters of Americans (77%) now own a smartphone
  2. After a modest decline between 2013 and 2015, the share of Americans with broadband service at home increased by 6 percentage points in 2016.
  3. Nearly seven-in-ten Americans now use social media.
  4. Half the public now owns a tablet computer.

One caveat to the broadband statistics is that they don’t use a speed to define broadband. When asked about the speed of broadband, this was their response…

1. And our definition of broadband users is not based on connection speed—we’ve tried to ask that question in the past, but found that the vast majority of our respondents were not able to even guess what the speed of their internet service is.
Instead, we define broadband users by simply asking them for the type of connection they have. That question has changed somewhat over time, but our most recent version is phrased as follows: “Do you subscribe to dial-up internet service at home… OR do you subscribe to a higher-speed broadband service such as DSL, cable, or fiber optic service?”

Strategies and Recommendations for Promoting Digital Inclusion

The FCC recently released their Strategies and Recommendations for Promoting Digital Inclusion. The report paints a picture of what the digital divide looks like today –

  • Americans with the lowest incomes are most likely to go without broadband at home.
  • Americans who are more likely to have low socioeconomic statuses due to historical and systemic barriers to education, opportunity, and adequate housing are least likely to have home broadband connectivity
  • African-Americans and 50 percent of Hispanics subscribe to a home broadband service, compared with 72 percent of White Americans
  • A rural-urban divide persists as well
  • People with disabilities and older adults are also more likely to go without a home broadband subscription
  • Perhaps one of the starkest divides in broadband access and adoption exists in Indian Country, where broadband is often unavailable

They also talk about national and local efforts to close the divide. It was nice to see the Blandin Foundation mentioned…

Example: The Blandin Foundation serves rural Minnesota by strategically allocating grants to organizations that support broadband access, adoption and digital literacy through its Community Broadband Resources Program. The foundation supports a number of community projects throughout the state. For instance, in Nobles County, grantees are working to establish Wi-Fi hotspots to provide access to unserved residents. In Chisago County, where broadband is expensive, slow, or unavailable, Blandin undertook a community survey to paint a picture of the divide that exists for lawmakers and providers. As a result, providers have expanded service and rolled out significant service improvements. In Stevens County, the foundation supported a consortium of school districts that developed a broadband-based system for providing specialized distance learning for students with disabilities. And in the Central Woodlands area of the state, a Blandin-funded pilot project assisted local businesses with adopting e-commerce and as a result, the program has expanded to help businesses in surrounding areas. All of these institutions, and the others that Blandin supports, have targeted-mission specific needs that are unique to their rural geography. As a community foundation, Blandin is uniquely situated to appreciate and assess those needs and support groups accordingly.

And they made recommendations. I’m going to try to shorthand them below (they are detailed in the report)..

Outreach & Education

  • Consider the creation of an online hub that catalogues digital inclusion resources by state
  • Consider convening a series of in-person and online National Digital Inclusion Summits across the country
  • Consider hosting a separate meeting to bring together representatives of Tribal libraries with representatives of non-tribal libraries and researchers
  • Consider increasing outreach to people with disabilities and their representatives

Partnerships

  • Commission, along with partners at the Department of Education and other interested federal agency stakeholders, may wish to explore ways to facilitate relationships in states between workforce development programs and community colleges
  • Bureau’s Office of Intergovernmental Affairs(IGA)may consider engaging and working with the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, the National Association of Utility Consumer Advocates, and local government representatives including the National Association of Counties and the U.S. Conference of Mayors to identify and connect community anchor institutions and grassroots organizations
  • IGA and the Office of Native Affairs and Policy could also liaise with state and local governments to explore partnerships between cities and/or states and nearby Tribal governments and Tribal libraries

Policy

  • Support Lifeline Aggregation Projects
  • Make Purchasing ISP Services Simpler and More Transparent
  • Support Using the Educational Broadband Service to Provide Service to Underserved Areas
  • Support Using Existing Federal Legislation to Promote Digital Inclusion.

Broadband Opportunity Council progress report: much was done, much remains and plan is to continue on

The Broadband Opportunity Council (BOC) released a progress report. Like many of the reports that have been released by federal agencies, it’s a benchmark of what has happened and what remains to be done. Here was the overarching goal of the BOC…

President Obama in March 2015 signed the Presidential Memorandum on “Expanding Broadband Deployment and Adoption by Addressing Regulatory Barriers and Encouraging Investment and Training,” (Memorandum) creating the Broadband Opportunity Council (Council).1 The Council included 25 federal agencies and departments with missions or programs with the potential to drive broadband infrastructure investment and adoption. The Memorandum asked the Council to produce specific recommendations to increase broadband deployment, competition, and adoption through executive actions within the scope of existing agency programs, missions, and budgets.  Agencies were directed to use all available and appropriate authorities to:
* Identify and address regulatory barriers that may unduly impede either wired broadband deployment or the infrastructure to augment wireless broadband deployment;
* Encourage further public and private investment in broadband networks and services;
* Promote the adoption and meaningful use of broadband technology; and otherwise
* Encourage or support broadband deployment, competition, and adoption in ways that promote the public interest.

In September 2015, the BOC released a report that included 36 actions for agencies to take; 15 have been completed and progress has been made on many other items. Actions focused on the following recommendations…

  1. Modernize federal programs to expand program support for broadband investments.
  2. Empower communities with tools and resources to attract broadband investment and promote meaningful use.
  3. Promote increased broadband deployment and competition through expanded access to federal assets.
  4. Improve data collection, analysis, and research on broadband.

You can check out what’s been done and what hasn’t in the publication. The list is really too long to include here. They do include a plan to move forward…

The final Principals’ meeting of the Council during the Obama Administration was held on November 9, 2016. During the meeting, agencies agreed that the important work of the Council should continue through an interagency working group to be jointly chaired by NTIA and RUS. …

As noted in this progress report, agencies will continue to implement their action items. As agencies complete their action items, NTIA will post updates to the BroadbandUSA website and will coordinate with the agencies to make information available via other public events and announcements.

A voice from the frontlines of Aitkin County MN: We need better broadband

I’m posting the following, portions of an email I received from Georgia Johnson in Aitkin Minnesota…

I am 80 years old I feel the school children need [broadband] it in the  rural areas to keep up with their peers.  I feel we need it for economic development,  realtors can’t sell property which would increase our tax base, those wanting to retire here have high speed Internet where they live now and want it here at their retirement homes they may want to build in the rural areas of Aitkin County.

We have the largest % of older folks living on fixed incomes of MN counties, we need tax relief, levies going up, new 65 million dollar school proposal trying to pass again, yet our water and sewer lines are about to crumble.

It’s an interesting take on the direct return on investment for broadband.

Net Inclusion 2017 May 16-17 in St Paul, Minnesota

I’m excited to share info on the national digital inclusion conference coming to St Paul this summer. I think it’s going to be a great event. I’m getting a good preview as I am on the planning committee. So many interesting people are involved – and I’m excited to introduce folks to the many great things that are happening in Minnesota to close the digital divide…

Net Inclusion 2017 Save-The-Date

May 16-17, 2017
St. Paul, Minnesota

The National Digital Inclusion Alliance and the St. Paul Public Library welcome digital inclusion practitioners, advocates, academics, Internet service providers and policymakers to Net Inclusion 2017: The National Digital Inclusion Summit.

Net Inclusion Purpose:
1.  Discuss current and potential local, state and federal policies with the potential to increase digital equity.
2.  Discuss current and potential sources of financial and programmatic support of digital inclusion programs.
3.  Share digital inclusion best practices and new strategies.

We will be in three walkable venues:
St. Paul Public Library George Latimer Central Library
90 W. 4th St. St. Paul MN 55102
James J. Hill Center
80 W 4th St. St. Paul MN 5501
St. Paul City Hall
15 Kellogg Blvd. West St. Paul MN 55102

The Net Inclusion National Planning Team and the Local Planning Team are working hard to create an awesome event. Net Inclusion will begin the morning of May 16 with digital inclusion program site visit tours in the Twin Cities. We’ll wrap up sessions at 3:30 on May 17.

Support Net Inclusion through Sponsorship.

Minnesota company making websites and apps accessible to people with disabilities

Hands up – how many of your bought at least half of your holiday presents online? Me too! Some site were easy to use; some where not. I had kid sending me empty shopping carts or texting me links I had to convert to my laptop if I needed to see shipping options. My fingers are crossed that everything arrives on time.

Now imagine the ups and downs of online holiday shopping if you had visual, physical or other impairments that made it even more difficult to complete a purchase online. Or imagine that you sell your wares online and you don’t even know if you’re losing sales because your site is not accessible – there’s a local company that can help with that. They were recently featured in The Line

While wheelchair ramps, closed captioning and wider doorways have become commonplace, the digital realm still lags behind.

Accessible360, founded by entrepreneur Mark Lacek, seeks to fix that oversight. The company’s purpose is to make websites and digital apps fully functional for those impaired by blindness, deafness, or physical or cognitive restrictions. The company was launched this April and began promotion last month, just in time to help businesses comply with a rollout of new regulations from the Department of Justice in 2018.

It’s something to think about – maybe not today, but next month when the rush is over and you have time to regroup and think about sales for 2017…

Checkout screens are a notorious problem for blind users, he explains, which alienates disabled users and decreases potential sales. Studies show that disabled Americans spend more time online than their non-disabled counterparts, so it’s essential for companies to adapt to their needs. “Up to 85 percent of websites are not compliant based on what the current ADA guidelines are,” says Lacek.

One added bonus – generally what’s good for accessibility is also good for search engine optimization!