Libraries Without Borders US and Blandin working to bring the library to patrons in rural MN

The last year of pandemic has shone a light on the need for better access to technology at the very local level. By access, I’m talking about that three-legged stool: broadband, device and the skills to use both. Those of us who have them take it for granted; those who don’t are in danger of falling farther behind especially as work, school and healthcare move online. This move didn’t start with the pandemic, but the pandemic accelerated it and exacerbated the divide between those to have and those who don’t.

The library has always helped level the playing fields for the have-nots. Libraries Without Borders US (LWB US) and Blandin Foundation are working on some ways to extend the reach of the library beyond the ways – to meet people where they are literally and in terms of where they are with their needs. (Do they need broadband, a device or training.) As LWB US reports on a project in Nobles County… 

So how can rural communities be connected to critical resources, considering obstacles that span from a lack of connectivity to finding a way to get to a local library? Our answer: by bringing library resources directly to these communities. LWB US, the Blandin Foundation, and local partners have teamed up to design and implement digital literacy labs and pop-up libraries, equipped with digital resources and programming ranging from monthly story time and ESL classes to workforce training and digital literacy workshops. 

Both organizations focus on creating solutions with the local organization, not for, and that’s the special sauce here. LWB US and Blandin have expertise and experience but the people on the ground know the needs and trusted places. LWB US spoke to participants working to develop the digital pop-ups. 

Andrea Duarte-Alonso, Lead for America Hometown Fellow at the Southwest Initiative Foundation commented…

The [Southwest Initiative Foundation’s] interest came from wanting a creative and innovative idea that would support community members through resources that are often not accessible to them. This support also encourages closing the technological and educational gap for families. It provides literacy to families without transportation or other needed amenities to access books and technology. 

 Katherine Craun, board member and past president of the Nobles County Library and alum of the Blandin Leadership program noted… 

Access, Access Access.  All citizens need to be connected and involved in community activities. First individuals and families need the hardware and software to connect.  Second, they need a location to connect.  Pop-ups would be a great way to meet needs of isolated housing units, small towns/villages, and rural farms. 

The project is shifting from design to deployment. I look forward to finding out how, where and when the digital labs pop up and about the difference they are able to make to the patrons! (For more details and more on participant interviews, please check out the original article from LWB US.)

Interactive Technology Gap Map: 9.65 percent of MN households have no computer

Digitunity is a national organization working to close technology gaps. They are recently published a very cool interactive maps that tracks computer ownership down to county level and cross referenced with a number of census topics: education attainment, race, age and gender…

I tracked some of this information in the County Profiles last year – but this is a handy way to access the information.

FCC announces Initial List of Emergency Broadband Benefit Providers (incl MN List)

The FCC has announced the list of providers participating in the Emergency Broadband Benefit program…

The broadband providers listed below have elected to participate in the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program (EBB Program). The list will be updated as more providers join the program.  Learn more about the Emergency Broadband Benefit, including eligibility details, by visiting: fcc.gov/broadbandbenefit

Definitions: Fixed broadband services are provided to your home, or a single location. These include cable, fiber optic, DSL, and fixed wireless services.

Mobile broadband services are device-based and available throughout the service provider’s cellular coverage area, similar to cell phone services. To view participating providers in your state or territory, click on the name of your state or territory below.

I am going to list the providers in Minnesota – but this list might change (after April 1, 2021) so you’ll want to double check with the FCC list.Continue reading

AT&T looks at definition of broadband: are they looking forward enough for everyone?

A recent AT&T blog looks at broadband speeds, policy and funding. I’m going to jump to what I think is the purpose of the post…

While the pandemic has redefined connectivity demands, those demands are not uniform, and the economics of serving every household in the country will require reliance on multiple technology solutions.  Policymakers seeking to re-define modern broadband speeds should take into consideration technological capabilities, economic considerations, geographic characteristics and affordability concerns.  Getting the definition right is critical to ensuring that broadband dollars are effectively targeted to where they are needed most.

They are right – getting the definition right is critical. But it reminds me of the old adage, never ask your barber if you need a haircut. Or more apt here, don’t ask car companies about seat belt laws.

Of course AT&T and other providers should chime in with their technical expertise and of course they are entitled to their educated opinions – but at the end of the day – they are selling something and we are buying – and as a country we are spending lots of money – so much money that don’t need to buy off the shelf. It’s our job as customers to tell them what we want and need.

I think a top consideration when spending government money is investment. Are we building solutions that will last or will they become outdated immediately? Are we renting this space or do we own it? We want to own it; we want to make decisions like we’re not moving next year.

It’s one of the best things about the MN Broadband Border to Border grants. They only fund projects that are scalable to 100 Mbps symmetrical. That doesn’t mean it needs to scale tomorrow – but it needs to scale eventually.

The AT&T blog recognizes that 25/3 (current federal definition of broadband) is too slow…

Let’s turn first to the definitional problem.  The pandemic has broadened the consensus opinion that it’s time to revisit the FCC’s current broadband definition of 25/3 Mbps.  To be clear, service at that speed is sufficient to support zoom working and remote learning.  According to Zoom’s website, a group call using high quality video requires speeds of 1 Mbps up / 600 kbps down.

But we know zooming isn’t the only thing users have been doing during quarantine and most homes now need to support multiple streams. Sandvine reports that video, gaming and social media together consumed 80% of total network capacity during 2020, with Netflix alone accounting for 11% of global traffic.  That traffic profile demands significant download performance.  For example, Netflix recommends speeds of at least 5Mbps down for HD video streaming, and 25Mbps down to stream in 4K for optimum quality viewing.

When zooming, streaming and tweeting is combined in an average household of four, it’s easy to conclude that download speeds must increase.  Notably, the results of the recent FCC Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) auction tilted toward players bidding in the 100/20 Mbps or better service tiers, with gigabit bids winning approximately 85% of all locations.

What is less clear is whether we need to increase upload speeds to the same level as download speeds for the purpose of defining “unserved” areas.  A definition built on symmetrical speeds could dramatically expand the locations deemed “unserved”, leading to some areas being unnecessarily overbuilt while leaving fewer dollars to support areas in greater need, which tend to be rural.

For reasons, I explained last week when the MN Legislature looked at including “wireless” networks to state goals, changing the definition of unserved/underserved/served only changes the definition. It doesn’t impact the household. You can call me anything you want, but if I can’t get broadband, I’m going to be calling my provider and if necessary my legislator to complain. We can’t artificially keep the definition low just to keep our stats up. It just deepens the divide between served and unserved and in this context it most often means rural versus urban and suburban.

In a recent letter from senators asking President Biden to reevaluate broadband speeds with an eye to 100/100, they mention average speeds in urban and suburban areas…

While we recognize that in truly hard-to-reach areas, we need to be flexible in order to reach unserved Americans, we should strive to ensure that all members of a typical family can use these applications simultaneously. There is no reason federal funding to rural areas should not support the type of speeds used by households in typical well-served urban and suburban areas (e.g., according to speedtest.net’s January 2021 analysis, average service is currently 180Mbps download/65Mbps upload with 24 millisecond latency.

Those are average so they include the single person watching Netflix, they include the family of five with three going to school and two working and watching Netflix. There’s no reason government funding should go to build networks in rural areas that wouldn’t meet the needs of the average household in urban and suburban areas. COVID may have pushed the use disproportionately in the last year, but it also opened doors that won’t be closing again. To invest wisely, we need to consider these numbers and look at a linear growth based on it, but prepare for nonlinear growth too, because now we know a new world of possible pandemics. And that makes broadband, not a problem, but a life-saving, livelihood-saving, sanity-saving tool.

FCC Creates Consumer FAQ for Emergency Broadband Benefit

Yesterday the FCC updated their site with more info on the Emergency Broadband Benefit. Here are the questions…

When can I sign up for the Emergency Broadband Benefit?

The program has been authorized by the FCC, but the start date has not yet been established.  The FCC is working to make the benefit available as quickly as possible, and you should be able to sign up by the end of April, 2021.  Please check our website, www.fcc.gov/broadbandbenefit, regularly for the latest information.

Do I receive the funds directly each month?

No, the Emergency Broadband Benefit provides a monthly discount on broadband service of up to $50 per eligible household (or up to $75 per eligible household on Tribal lands).  The participating broadband service provider will receive the funds directly from the Emergency Broadband Benefit program.

Which broadband providers are participating in the Emergency Broadband Benefit?

Various broadband providers, including those offering landline and wireless broadband, will be participating in the Emergency Broadband Benefit.  Depending on where you live, you may have a choice of providers.  Check with the broadband providers in your area to learn about their plans for program participation and eligible service offerings.  You can also use the Companies Near Me tool found here.

sort byWhat is the enhanced benefit amount for residents of Tribal Lands?

Eligible households on Tribal lands can receive a total monthly discount of up to $75.  You can find out more about which areas are eligible Tribal lands by visiting this site: www.lifelinesupport.org/additional-support-for-tribal-land.

EVENT April 27: Digital Inclusion + Human Connection: Libraries Serving Youth Meetup

This is an event for librarians but I thought some folks might be interested and/or some folks might be interested at least reading about libraries are doing these days…

Did 2020 leave your patrons and students struggling to connect to reliable internet? Are they in need of new devices to fully participate and engage in distance learning? Could they find the support and instruction they needed to use new virtual tools?

Ensuring equitable digital access has long been a focus of libraries, but the whirlwind of 2020 put a glaring spotlight on internet dead zones, inadequate equipment and insufficient support for youth and families.

The seventh annual Meetup for school and public library staff serving youth will feature speakers finding solutions to digital exclusion in Minnesota. Join us for an afternoon to hear from these amazing advocates and discuss how we can create and improve digital inclusion efforts in our communities!

When: Tuesday, April 27, 2-5 p.m.

Where: A Zoom link will be sent to registrants one week before the event.

Speakers and panelists include:

If you’re interested, please contact Ashley Bieber (651-582-8849) for assistance with any questions.

 

Ramsey County TechPak initiative: Tech for folks who needed it see $2.40 return for every $1 spent

TechPak was a program that helped get technology into the hands that needed it during the pandemic. Read below for details or watch the video but know that they report a great ROI…

The projected SROI for the TechPak initiative is $2.40 for every $1 dollar spent.

TechPak, a partnership between Tech DumpLiteracy MinnesotaSaint Paul Public Library and Ramsey County, is a new initiative bringing computers, internet and digital literacy training into the homes of Ramsey County residents who have experienced economic impacts due to COVID-19. The packs include a refurbished laptop, a hotspot for internet access and quick start guides.

During the upcoming enrollment period, Aug. 31-Sept. 2, TechPaks will be awarded to eligible Ramsey County residents who have experienced job loss, reduced hours, change of household income or have other barriers due to COVID-19. Additional application periods will be offered from September through December 2020. An anticipated 500 TechPaks will be distributed by the end of the year.

Laptop donations for this program are being accepted by Tech Dump. Laptops will be securely wiped of all data, updated and repaired, and then assessed for use. Donations can be made by contacting Tech Dump at techdump.org or calling 763-432-3117.

Additional information about TeckPaks can be found at ramseycounty.us/TechPak.

St Cloud reader thinks broadband is for folks who can afford it – and a few counter points

St Cloud Times posts a letter from a reader…

I personally think it’s unnecessary to spend state tax money on the internet so everyone has a chance of using it. I disagree with [Sen. Rich Draheim, R-Madison Lake] comment about how it’s important for every citizen to have good and reliable internet. I think that those that deserve it need to work for it, and should be able to pay for it themselves.

I understand rural areas have higher likeliness of poor broadband speeds but that’s partly due to the fact that people cannot afford to buy it themselves. Money for the broadband should be going towards other projects, so there can be better management around the home.

Once this COVID nonsense blows over, students will be back in schools and able to use the networks the districts provide. This can be looked at as motivation to get back in the classrooms and stop being so afraid of the “modern flu.”

I haven’t seen a response like this in a few years. I wanted to offer what I hope are constructive reply options:

There’s a hole in the bucket

Remember the song – There’s a hole in the bucket? I’ll recap: Henry finds a hole in the bucket. Liza says fix it. After much consternation, Henry say he can’t fix it because he can’t get the water he needs to do the job because he needs the bucket to get the water. Broadband isn’t a reward, it’s the means to become economically more solvent. Conservative report say households with broadband enjoy $1850/yr in economic benefit – but I’ve seen that number go as high as $10,500/yr. Broadband is a means to further education, provides access to more jobs and just access to learning about more jobs.

Only as strong as the weakest link

I spoke with communities last summer about how they were able to survive the pandemic shut down. Rock County has almost ubiquitous broadband. So when schools moved to distance education, they had minimal effort to ensure that all households had the connectivity and computers, which means teachers could teach online. Kanabec County, on the other hand has spotty coverage. There are areas where even the mobile hotspots were not reliable. The issue was not household affordability – it’s availability. School was different for them. Teachers had to teach online and prepare paper packets for kids without access. Whole communities were held back because some households  didn’t have access.

Uneven playing field

In urban areas, the market takes care of the broadband expansion. Companies can make money building and serving broadband to customers because there are so many darned people in Minneapolis and St Paul. That’s how a company like US Internet can charge $50/month for 300Mbps connection! It is difficult to make as much money in a rural community because there are fewer people and the population density is much lower. (Population density in Ramsey county is 3,064.9/sq mi and it’s 1.6/sq mi in Cook County.) There are some rural counties with amazing broadband. It is usually because they have a cooperative broadband provider but when there’s a commercial provider the incentive is not there to upgrade. Cooperatives aim to meet the needs of their members; commercial providers aim to make money. (Even when profit isn’t the primary aim, providers still need help to deploy better broadband.)

We all pay when someone doesn’t have broadband

Finally, government services are often cheaper when people can access them online. One timely example is the COVID at-home tests; cheaper, safer and easier for everyone but you need broadband to do it. But it’s also true for healthcare, telehealth saves money. Reducing the cost of government services, reduces the needs for taxes. It’s a dated story now, but in 2012, Mayo announced expected savings of $172.8 million for taxpayers as a result of the $60 million investment. These economic benefits don’t stop with government. Businesses benefit when customers are online too – especially in the last year. Communities where customers could order online were in a better place to shift sales rather than lose them.

To think that broadband is only for those who can afford it is short sighted. Broadband is not a luxury, it is a necessity. In 2011, the UN declared it a human right and just a few weeks ago, a survey showed that 68 percent viewed broadband as a utility and 77 percent thought it was essential to achieving the American dream. By definition, the American dream is not just for those who can afford it.

Wisconsin is using drones to bring broadband to students in Northwoods

People are so clever. I love the innovation here. It’s not a permanent fix but what a great way to reach people who currently don’t even have enough cell coverage to support students or workers trying to get online at home. I know there are areas in Minnesota that are in the same boat! Wisconsin Public Radio reports

Rural Northwoods students who lack reliable internet at home will soon be able to connect to their school networks via a drone-powered cellular signal.

A Wisconsin startup will be part of a state-funded pilot program in the Eagle River area that will test the use of drones as a way to expand internet connectivity into rural areas.

It’s a partnership between the new company Wisconsin Telelift and the Northland Pines School District. The drones will be fitted with cellphone towers, allowing students throughout the sprawling Northwoods district to get online, even in rural areas where cellphone service and broadband access are unavailable or unreliable.

It’s a real need in a district that is among the state’s largest geographically, spreading over 435 square miles in Vilas and Oneida counties.

As many as 15 percent of the district’s 1,340 students have no internet access at home, said Northland Pines administrator Scott Foster, and half of its students have unreliable connections that don’t always allow for streaming video and other tools used in educational software. The district provides Chromebooks to its students and portable hotspots to those who need them — but the hotspots can only work where there is a strong cellular signal. In much of the district, that’s just not the case.

Senator Klobuchar and Hon Clyburn introduce Accessible, Affordable Internet for All Act

The Hill reports

House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) are reintroducing legislation Thursday aimed at improving internet access in impoverished communities.

The Accessible, Affordable Internet for All Act would invest $94 billion in expanding broadband infrastructure and connecting Americans.

“Access to broadband today will have the same dramatic impact on rural communities as the rural electrification efforts in the last century,” Clyburn said in a statement.

Beyond building necessary infrastructure, the legislation requires internet providers that use the funding to offer affordable service plans.

It also authorizes an additional $6 billion for the Emergency Broadband Benefit, which gives qualifying Americans a discount on internet plans.

The legislation would also add an extra $2 billion to the $7 billion in funding for the E-Rate program that was included in the coronavirus relief package expected to be signed by President Biden later this week.

Duluth Digital Inclusion Initiative and Partnership Summary of Accomplishments January 2021

It’s always nice to share good news and I’m happy to share the following with their permission…

The Duluth Digital Inclusion Partnership represents a collective effort to address the digital divide, which has
become an even more critical issue during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to data from the American
Community Survey, approximately 6,000 households in Duluth lack a computer at home, and another 6,000
lack internet access. In May of 2020, the City of Duluth Workforce Development Department and Local
Initiatives Support Corporation Duluth (LISC Duluth) convened a group of stakeholders to address the digital
divide through three main goals:
1. Get devices into the hands of those who need them
2. Improve digital literacy across the community, while training a new IT workforce
3. Expand internet access for all community members
Each partner carries forward a piece of the work through their own programs and resources. Additionally,
new partnerships have been formed to attract resources and amplify impact. As of January 2021, the Duluth
Digital Inclusion Partnership has made the following accomplishments:
• More than 6800 computers distributed to individuals who need
them
• Over 1000 WiFi hotspots provided
• 18 people trained as IT Support Specialists
• Over $1 million raised to support digital inclusion projects,
including:
o Pursuit of neighborhood WiFi in Lincoln Park
o Public computers available through community
organizations
o Devices for families to stay connected with children in
the foster care system
o Devices and digital literacy training for low-income
individuals, older adults, and people with disabilities
o Digital Navigators to be placed with community
organizations
o Funding to assist K-12 students in accessing the internet
o Tutors to assist K-12 students with virtual learning

ConnectedMN awards $2.35 million in grants to get kids online

From the Minnesota Business Coalition for Racial Equity

Community-led digital equity solutions reach more Minnesota students
$2.35 million in grants awarded through a joint effort of Minnesota Business Coalition for Racial Equity and Partnership for a ConnectedMN will advance work of 29 community organizations
MINNEAPOLIS – For students to succeed in school today, access to digital tools, reliable internet and support services is crucial. Almost a year after the COVID-19 pandemic made glaringly obvious the long-standing digital inequities that affect many Minnesota students, community-led solutions continue to be most successful in addressing these disparities. Today, 29 Minnesota non-profits’ digital equity work will advance as a result of $2.35 million in grants
delivered from a partnership between the Minnesota Business Coalition for Racial Equity (MBCRE) and Partnership for a ConnectedMN (ConnectedMN).
30,000 Feet, an organization that empowers Black students in St. Paul through culture, art, technology and social justice, will use their grant to expand their distance learning support program. The program ensures that at least 100 students will have access to a laptop computer, small group tutoring sessions and holistic services that support mental and physical well-being.
“We’re fortunate to have deep connections on the East side of St. Paul. We’ve been around a long time, with a rich reserve of families that we’ve been successful with — and those families trust us,” said Kevin Robinson, Executive Director of 30,000 Feet. “This pandemic has shown we
need to move with urgency to deal with the digital divide, and the easiest way to do so is with organizations like ours that can deepen existing relationships. Relationship-focused solutions will have the best long-term ramifications for our community’s growth.”
The grants awarded support a variety of strategies to enhance digital learning for Minnesota students, focusing on organizations serving students who are Black, Indigenous or People of Color in kindergarten through grade 12. These strategies include:
• Technology tools, internet infrastructure and connectivity: Examples include the distribution of laptops, tech licenses and creation of comprehensive device solutions for students by Change Inc and Breakthrough Twin Cities, fiber internet installation for student computer labs in the Lower Sioux Indian Community in the State of Minnesota
and the dissemination of reliable internet hotspots in the Twin Cities metro area by PCs for People.

•  Culturally responsive and wrap-around support approaches: Organizations are responding to the unique learning needs of their community, like the Centro Tyrone
Guzman, CLUES, Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, the Hmong American Partnership, South Sudanese Foundation and Project Nandi, fiscally sponsored by WoMN Act.
• Safe spaces for learning, tutoring and mentoring: Organizations including Boise Forte Tribal Government will provide computer labs for students without adequate home access to school and tech support. Positive Image that will create virtual tutoring initiatives to provide Black and other underrepresented mentors and tutors to students.
• Unique financial solutions: A partnership between Venn Foundation and Youthprise will provide loans to families for devices and/or digital support that will be reimbursable
from the family’s K-12 Education Tax Credit.
Grants were awarded based on expert insights identifying key priorities for allocating funding, and a review committee comprised of community members with a broad range of experience and geographic representation chose the recipients. Funding will be provided to programs
throughout Minnesota, in a mix of urban, rural and Indigenous settings. A full list of grant recipients and the grant award process can be found here.
“These partnerships are evidence philanthropy can come together in Minnesota and make an impact even in isolated, remote parts of the state that are often forgotten. This pandemic created a different landscape of understanding what access means in Minnesota’s rural, isolated and sparse populations, from the inability to connect to reliable and affordable internet to the immense toxic stress added by the financial crisis of lay-offs and the State shutdown,”
said Tuleah Palmer, CEO of Blandin Foundation, which serves as one of the founding partners of ConnectedMN. “This effort to collectively advance issues that improve the quality of life for folks shows we don’t have to breakdown — we can breakthrough. We are not going back to normal; we are going to bounce forward into a whole new level of well-being and I am excited to see what we get done next.”
A Collective Approach
Grants were supported by 36 local companies and foundations through MCBRE and/or through ConnectedMN. These organizations include, Best Buy, Bush Foundation, Cargill Foundation, Target and The Margaret A. Cargill Foundation Fund at the Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation.
A full list of funders to both organizations be found here.
Says Dave MacLennan, chairman and CEO at Cargill, “As a global company based in Minnesota, we know that a strong K-12 education system is how we prepare a strong future workforce and keep our headquarters’ community competitive. Systemic inequality persists in education and
digital access is one of the greatest divides. Minnesota deserves more. The Minnesota Business Coalition for Racial Equity connects Cargill with other Twin Cities companies, allowing us to combine our resources and deliver much-needed impact.”
More Help is Needed
To reach more students, companies and organizations are encouraged to contribute financially to the Digital Learning Fund or provide in-kind gifts (like devices and connectivity services).
Learn more about these opportunities here. Educators, local governments and prospective grant applicants are also encouraged to reach out.

More than 12 million US households cancel home broadband service

Park Associates reports

New research from Parks Associates reports more than 12 million US households have cancelled their home broadband service and use only mobile broadband for their internet needs. Adoption and Perception of Broadband finds there are more than 15 million households in the US that have only a mobile broadband service, which includes more than three million households that have never had a home internet subscription.

“High cost is the most prominent issue driving households to cut the cord and go mobile only, although service-related issues, from slow speeds to poor customer experience, also contribute,” said Kristen Hanich, Senior Analyst, Parks Associates. “Service providers can deploy a number of strategies, including increasing speed and delivering a device that improves Wi-Fi coverage, in order to protect their customer base.”

The report was released Q1 2021, which means they are looking at Survey results during the pandemic. It is shocking to me that so many people would cancel home service at a time when so much of life (school, work, healthcare, entertainment) has moved online.

How can Minnesotans get in line for the new federal broadband discounts? Let’s figure it out together

Earlier today I posted about the new federal discounts for broadband (FCC adopts federal broadband discount program: up to $50/month, $75/month on tribal lands and $100 for device).

The natural follow up is – hey how can I/we/my people get that? Turns out CTC Technology & Energy is already thinking about that.

Localities and states can take action now—before the FCC even issues its rules—to begin to help residents maximize their potential benefits under the new Emergency Broadband Benefit Program. For more details on the program, see our explanation here. Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have additional questions.

The big issue is having to figure out if you’re eligible and how apply for the funds. It can be tricky for a family to figure it out. It can be tricky for smaller broadband providers to figure it out. (Larger providers will have an easier time especially if they are already connected to the Lifeline verifier.)

CTC has a way for government to help…

On the surface, the Emergency Broadband Benefit program involves only ISPs, customers, and the FCC: A customer calls the ISP, the ISP verifies their eligibility, and the ISP is reimbursed by the FCC. The reality is that local and state governments can play a key role in helping their residents make the most of this opportunity—rather than assuming the FCC and large ISPs will take on those responsibilities—and in the process, narrow the digital divide in their communities.

 

They recommend three ways:

  • Develop consumer education and outreach materials
  • Engage with ISPs—particularly small, local operators—to support their participation
  • Consider offering bridge funding for ISPs and residents

The article provides more details but I wanted to invite folks to post a comment or contact me atreacy@treacyinfo.com if they are interested and/or planning to take any of these actions. I’ve already heard from a very knowledgeable engineer about this. I’d hate to see people inventing wheels all over the state when we could build one wheel together more easily.

FCC adopts federal broadband discount program: up to $50/month, $75/month on tribal lands and $100 for device

Here’s the quick take…

The Emergency Broadband Benefit Program will provide eligible households with discounts of up to $50 a month for broadband service, and up to $75 a month if the household is on Tribal lands.  It also will provide a one-time discount of up to $100 on a computer or tablet for eligible households.

The FCC reports

Today, the FCC voted to formally adopt a Report and Order that establishes the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program, a $3.2 billion federal initiative to provide qualifying households discounts on their internet service bills and an opportunity to receive a discount on a computer or tablet.

 

“Today the Federal Communications Commission made history.  It adopted rules for the nation’s largest-ever program to help households nationwide afford broadband service.  This $3.2 billion program was designed to lower the cost of high-speed internet service for those struggling to get the connectivity they need during the ongoing pandemic.  It’s a challenge that is all too real for too many families.

“This is a program that will help those at risk of digital disconnection.  It will help those sitting in cars in parking lots just to catch a Wi-Fi signal to go online for work.  It will help those lingering outside the library with a laptop just to get a wireless signal for remote learning.  It will help those who worry about choosing between paying a broadband bill and paying rent or buying groceries.  In short, this program can make a meaningful difference in the lives of people across the country.  That’s why our work is already underway to get this program up and running, and I expect it to be open to eligible households within the next 60 days as providers sign up and program systems are put in place.  I have confidence in our staff that we will do this carefully, swiftly and the right way,” said Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel.

The Emergency Broadband Benefit Program will provide eligible households with discounts of up to $50 a month for broadband service, and up to $75 a month if the household is on Tribal lands.  It also will provide a one-time discount of up to $100 on a computer or tablet for eligible households.

Under the law, the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program is open to households that participate in an existing low-income or pandemic relief program offered by a broadband provider; Lifeline subscribers, including those that are on Medicaid or accept SNAP benefits; households with kids receiving free and reduced-price lunch or school breakfast; Pell grant recipients; and those who have lost jobs and seen their income reduced in the last year.