Five digital inclusion trends in the US

In honor of digital inclusion week, the NTIA has come up with five digital inclusion trends in the US. I’m going to borrow from the Benton Foundation summary to share them…

  1. Digital Inclusion Planning. More governments and coalitions are creating city-wide, regional and state-wide broadband and digital inclusion planning programs.  Many of these plans include dedicated staff, grant programs, and outcome-based measurement.
  2. Program Integration.  Federal agencies understand that broadband access and digital literacy are important aspects of their missions, so they are including broadband and digital inclusion as “eligible expenses” in government programs and funding streams.
  3. Library Modernization. Libraries are community hubs for digital access, research, and content creation. Partnering with libraries and other community-based nonprofits is a great way for digital inclusion coalitions to reach people where they live and work.
  4. Performance Measurement.  Part and parcel with the trend in structured planning, we also see a trend in measuring program performance through data collection and research. Measurement is important at the beginning of a program to assess gaps and needs and to size up assets and opportunities, but it is also essential as programs develop and change.
  5. Leveraging Assets.  Digital inclusion relies on community investment in broadband infrastructure.

We will be talking more about Digital Inclusion at the Blandin Conference coming up this week. I have been helping to organize a showcase of about 10 practitioners who will share the digital inclusion projects and tools they are using in their communities.

Discount Internet Guidebook from NDIA

The National Digital Inclusion Alliance has just release a guidebook on discount Internet options. Here’s a summary from their introduction…

This guidebook has a twofold purpose. It is a practical guide for digital inclusion practitioners — local community-based organizations, libraries, housing authorities, government agencies and others working directly with community members in need of affordable home broadband service. This guidebook also contains recommendations for policy makers and internet service providers to improve current offers and establish new offers.

The guidebook will be more valuable to community members looking for options in urban areas because there are more options in urban areas but the policy advice and advice to providers is helpful to everyone.

Schools are mostly connected in the US, but that deepens the divide

Telecompetitor reports some good news from the EducationSuperHighway…

Broadband advocacy group EducationSuperHighway found in its annual State of the States report that 98% of public school districts in the United States have high-speed broadband.

They also report some bad news…

But 2.3 million students don’t have high-speed connectivity in their school, the school broadband report found.

Here are other highlights from the report:

·         Only 1,356 schools still lack a fiber-optic connection or other scalable broadband infrastructure, down from 22,958 schools in 2013

·         The cost of K-12 Internet access has declined 85 percent in the last five years

·         Since 2015, the amount invested in Wi-Fi nearly doubled to $2.9 billion, but 7,823 school districts have over $1.4 billion in unused E-rate funds set to expire in 2019.

·         Today, 44.7 million students and 2.6 million teachers in more than 81,000 schools have access. Since 2013, an estimated 40.7 million students have been connected to broadband and 21,600 more schools to fiber, the press release says.

The real problem with this good news/bad news situation is that the schools and students that are being left behind are really left behind. The digital divide may be narrowing but it’s also deepening. And that’s going to leave a sector of students not learning digital skills that will be required for future jobs.

Fond du Lac reservation is building FTTH to 1,800 homes by 2020

Minnesota Public Radio reports on the network deployments up on Fond du Lac…

The Fond du Lac band of Lake Superior Chippewa is getting into the internet business.

The band recently submitted a petition with the Federal Communications Commission to form a telecommunications company called Aaniin, which means “hello” in Ojibwe.

The band’s ambitious plan is to provide fiber-to-home high-speed broadband internet service to more than 1,800 homes, and anyone who lives in the network’s roughly 120-square mile service area, by 2020 — both band members and non-members alike.

Service is expected to begin at around $50 a month. People who live below the poverty line — which includes about a third of people living on the reservation — will qualify for subsidized rates.

Broadband may not seem like a big deal to city-dwellers accustomed to high-speed internet service, whether it’s via a fiber optic network, cable, or DSL.

But many people who live on and around the Fond du Lac reservation have never had access to high-speed internet in their homes, said the band’s planning director Jason Hollinday.

The FCC is looking for comments on broadband service for veterans

The FCC is looking for comments

WIRELINE COMPETITION BUREAU SEEKS COMMENT ON PROMOTING BROADBAND INTERNET ACCESS SERVICE FOR VETERANS
WC Docket No. 18-275
Comments Due: October 12, 2018
Reply Comments Due: October 29, 2018
In this Public Notice, as required by the RAY BAUM’S Act of 2018, the Wireline Competition Bureau (Bureau) seeks information and data for the Federal Communications Commission’s (Commission) report on promoting broadband Internet access service for veterans.1 Section 504 of the RAY BAUM’S Act of 2018 directs the Commission to, within one year, “submit to Congress a report on
promoting broadband Internet access service for veterans, in particular lowincome veterans and veterans residing in rural areas” and “provide the public with notice and an opportunity to comment” in preparing the report.2 In the report, the Commission is required to examine veterans’ access to broadband and how to promote such access, and provide findings and recommendations for Congress on
those issues.3
Broadband is critical to ensuring that veterans, like all Americans, have full and meaningful participation in society. It ensures that veterans in particular can
access the resources they need to connect with health care services, find jobs, get information on and apply for military benefits, and generally participate in modern
society. The Commission’s top priority remains promoting digital opportunities for all Americans, including veterans. For example, the Commission’s recent telehealth Notice of Inquiry sought comment on “developing a Universal Service Fund pilot program to explore how to promote the use of broadband-enabled telehealth services . . . [among] low-income veterans, with a focus on such services
. . . delivered directly to patients outside of brick-and-mortar health care facilities.”4 The Notice of Inquiry identified the significant obstacles faced by lowincome
veterans and veterans residing in rural areas to obtain healthcare, and noted that veterans living in rural areas are among the largest population of … (read more)

One out of four rural users say broadband speed is a major problem

Pew Research reports…

Fast, reliable internet service has become essential for everything from getting news to finding a job. But 24% of rural adults say access to high-speed internet is a major problem in their local community, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted earlier this year. An additional 34% of rural residents see this as a minor problem, meaning that roughly six-in-ten rural Americans (58%) believe access to high speed internet is a problem in their area.

Age and race and ethnicity also have an impact on broadband access – or thinking there’s a problem…

Concerns about access to high-speed internet are shared by rural residents from various economic backgrounds. For example, 20% of rural adults whose household income is less than $30,000  a year say access to high speed internet is a major problem, but so do 23% of rural residents living in households earning $75,000 or more annually. These sentiments are also similar between rural adults who have a bachelor’s or advanced degree and those with lower levels of educational attainment.

There are, however, some differences by age and by race and ethnicity. Rural adults ages 50 to 64 are more likely than those in other groups to see access to high-speed internet as a problem where they live. Nonwhites who live in a rural area are more likely than their white counterparts to say this is a major problem (31% vs. 21%). (Racial and ethnic differences are also present across a number of other perceived problems for communities, ranging from traffic to crime.)