Stoicism and broadband – a guest post

Celebrating Sunday, I am going to share a speech that my daughter (Aine O’Donnell) wrote for her high school (freshman) rhetoric paper. I thought folks might enjoy a completely new look at broadband…

Where do you go when you have a question on your homework? Or when you need to catch up on the latest celebrity drama? Or maybe to get in touch with your family across the globe? We use the internet. But not everyone has access to the internet; there are entire towns right here in Minnesota that have little to no internet access. It’s not even an option. Imagine that painful moment when the internet is down and your hit with that wall of frustration, especially when you need to finish that huge assignment. That’s life without proper internet access. It’s hard to even imagine not having internet, isn’t it. This is the reality for hundreds of thousands of Minnesotans.  In our industrialized lives, Internet access is a necessity for anyone seeking prosperity.

According to Pew Research “17% of teenagers say they are often or sometimes unable to complete homework assignments because they do not have reliable access to  internet connection” (Anderson). This lack of internet access leaves people at a disadvantage, stripping away their chance to get anywhere those with internet easily can. This issue goes beyond the individuals. The lack of internet access affects entire communities, leaving them in the dust as the rest of the world progresses, getting more and more digital everyday. Without internet, we can’t do our homework, can’t apply for jobs, cent get remote access to health care (which is very important in rural areas), and much, much more. The internet is not just for Netflix and Snapchat, it’s not a luxury it’s a right  and an absolute necessity to be the people we want to be.

Stoicism involves obeying nature by evolving our gift of reason (aka our natural mind) for the ultimate goal of happiness through wisdom. . The internet keeps you in touch with the rest of the world and updated on our ever renewing ideas and discoveries. In that sense: the internet is parallel to Seneca’s letters, because he used the modern technology of his time to spread his knowledge to the world. Much like how Internet is our modern technology to spread and receive knowledge. In our modern time, the internet is undoubtedly a necessity to fulfill the duty of a stoic.,

To go back to my original question, where do you go when you have a question? The internet! But did it ever occur to you that people don’t have that option? That’s a lot of questions left unanswered.  Much like the food on our table or roof over our head, when you have it you don’t often think about those who don’t. But does that really mean it’s not an issue? Of course not! The Internet truly is more and more of a necessity as humanity progresses, to deny this is to deny the progression itself.  We are the future, which means that the path of our progression is in our hands. We can’t continue to leave so many people behind. If not everyone has a chance, no one has a chance.

Works Cited

Anderson, Monica, and Andrew Perrin. “Nearly One-in-Five Teens Can’t Always Finish Their Homework Because of the Digital Divide.” Pew Research Center, Pew Research Center, 26 Oct. 2018,


T-Mobile has 18% discount for nonprofit orgs to serve their clients

I just heard that T-Mobile has opened up its contracts with states and the federal GSA to nonprofits. This means you have access to an 18% discount on service. If you pay T-Mobile directly you can use this discount to provide service to the folks you serve. They do not have a system for the folks you serve to pay T-Mobile directly.

This could be a way to offer hotspots to library patrons or to families you serve that don’t have access at home. (Get pricing. And check coverage areas before you get into any contracts!)

Other providers may have similar service – and if they do I’d be happy to post it here too. (Just send me info or post a comment below.)

What do you do when the maps are wrong and you aren’t served?

I heard from reader Steve Riley who is stuck in Crow Wing County with less broadband than he needs, “I’ve been trying to get faster DSL at my home. Currently I’m at 5-9 Mbps, but usually slower.” Since an injury a few years ago, his wife teleworks but those speeds make it difficult to be productive.

He sent me pictures of the telecom situation in the area.

He adds, “My current provider and the FCC say my area is served by high speed internet, but as you can see it’s not if you’re between DSLAMS. I’ve asked 3 different techs why I can’t be hooked up to the new DSLAM installed 2 years ago that’s less than 500 feet from me and they all say it’s easy to do but it’s against policy.” My guess is that they don’t want to sell beyond capacity but I can understand the frustration. And I hear often about the frustration of maps that aren’t quite right and just the inability to get the broadband you need.

And I worry about the communities where this happens. Who is going to move into an area, who is going to start a business where you can’t get sufficient broadband?

Star Tribune features PCs for People and CEO Casey Sorenson

PCs for People has been working with Blandin Broadband Communities, brigning refurbished computers to rural communities, for about 10 years. The days of computer distribution in the communities are often some of the most heart warming stories. So it was fun to see PCs for People and CEO Casey Sorenson featured in the Minneapolis Star Tribune

When Casey Sorensen was 9, his mother, a secretary at the local high school, saved her pennies for a full year to get the family a computer and “DOS for Dummies” handbook. Her son recalls being “instantly hooked.” He decided he would pursue a degree — and a career — in technology. He’s done that in a big, and unexpected, way. Sorensen is CEO of the St. Paul-based nonprofit PCs for People, which is celebrating 20 years of getting refurbished computers and low-cost internet into homes across the United States. Recently honored with the Charles Benton Digital Champion Award, which recognizes national leadership in advancing digital equity, Sorensen talks about expansion, what he still worries about and how he unplugs.

They talk about the typical computer recipient…

A family of three, living on $14,000 per year. Even in 2018, 60% of our recipients say they have never owned a computer. A staggering 58% report they are unemployed. That is a powerful statistic that shows the importance of a home computer and internet connection, and how we have transformed into a digital society.

And the different a computer can make…

According to the Department of Labor, more than 75% of jobs will require digital skills by next year. This is not just sitting at a computer in an office. Many jobs that were previously manual now require using high tech tools to increase efficiency, accuracy and productivity. Someone without basic technical skills will automatically be less qualified for 75% of jobs. Libraries do a great job of providing the first point of access to technology, but having a home computer allows someone to build digital skills, search for a job and do homework on their own schedule. …

Some individuals are facing homelessness. Having digital access is a vital part of developing job readiness skills to get and maintain a job. They are appreciative of the mobility of their laptops and internet access. While in transition, they can easily bring their technology with them and stay connected.

Webinar tonight (7pm) #SaveLifeline: a digital briefing about the Lifeline program and how to save it.

If you’re reading this now, you may be free tonight – and this is a good opportunity to learn more about lifeline at a time when the digital divide may be narrowing, but also deepening.

#SaveLifeline: a digital briefing about the Lifeline program and how to save it.

Lifeline is the only federal program that helps people living below the poverty line stay connected to phone and at-home internet service. This essential program allows people to access life-saving medical information, search for jobs, pursue educational opportunities and so much more.

The FCC wants to destroy Lifeline — but we’re here to fight back. Join a digital briefing hosted by Free Press and the Center for Media Justice to learn more about this program and how you can get involved in the fight to save it.


Apr 16, 2019 8:00 PM in Eastern Time (US and Canada)

Senate Democrats Introduce New Legislation to Tackle Nationwide Digital Equity (including Sen Klobuchar)

From the US Senate Press Release…

Led by U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), the top Democrat on the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, today a group of Senate Democrats introduced new legislation aimed at closing the growing digital divide in communities across the country. The Digital Equity Act of 2019 creates new federal investments targeted toward a diverse array of projects at the state and local level that promote “digital equity”— a concept defined by the National Digital Inclusion Alliance as the “condition in which all individuals and communities have the information technology capacity needed for full participation in our society, democracy and economy.” The legislation was cosponsored by Senators Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Angus King (I-ME), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Tina Smith (D-MN), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Gary Peters (D-MI), and Jack Reed (D-RI), and a companion bill will also be introduced in the House of Representatives.


“For so many of us, having a reliable broadband connection is a given—we use the internet to pay bills, do our taxes, book travel, do homework, and much more. We can do it on our own time, in our own homes—even from our phones. But for far too many individuals and families—including those from communities of color, people with disabilities, low-income households, and rural communities—getting online isn’t so easy to do, and I strongly believe that in 2019, we shouldn’t be a country of haves and have-nots when it comes to using the internet,” said Senator Murray. “That’s why I’m proud to join with my Democratic colleagues to introduce the Digital Equity Act, which will direct significant new federal investments to help ensure people in our communities have the tools, support, and technologies necessary to take full advantage of a broadband connection when they have access to one. Congress can and should help states, counties, tribes, and others do more to close the growing digital divide, and the Digital Equity Act is a major step in the right direction. It’s the right thing to do for families, and it’s the right thing to do for our economy to make sure everyone is reaching their full potential.”


“The internet impacts every aspect of our day-to-day lives, from conducting business to pursuing an education to connecting with friends and loved ones. Put simply: it is the most important tool for anyone trying to participate in 21st century life,” said Senator King. “And it’s not enough to simply have access to the internet; you also need to know how to use it. By making these investments in digital equity and digital inclusion, we can ensure Americans of all ages and backgrounds are fluent in the technology that will drive so much of our nation’s future.”


“The Internet is a powerful tool that has become instrumental in economic and social mobility and civic engagement. In 2009, Hawaii capitalized on funds made available under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to expand broadband to schools and public computer centers, making it one of the most-connected states in the country. But physical infrastructure is only part of the equation,” said Senator Hirono. “The Digital Equity Act will provide grants for things like digital literacy and digital skills education to low-income populations and improving the online accessibility of social services for individuals with disabilities that will allow the people of Hawaii to make full use of what broadband has to offer. Only then can they fully participate in our society, democracy, and economy.”


“More and more, we rely on the internet to help us participate in our democracy and take part in the global economy. Expanding access to the digital world will help combat inequality, increase transparency in our institutions, and help citizens hold their government accountable. That’s why I’m pleased to support the Digital Equity Act,” said Senator Whitehouse.


“As we rely more on technology in our everyday lives, we have to make sure that every family has access to broadband, regardless of their zip code. This legislation will help close the digital divide and bring high-speed internet to communities across the county,” said Senator Klobuchar.


“Access to broadband internet service is literally transformative. With broadband, students can access vast educational resources, families remain connected, citizens engage their representatives, and businesses reach new customers,” said Senator Blumenthal. “For far too long, the digital divide has left behind those overlooked and underserved communities that would benefit most from broadband. Our bill would invest much-needed resources in our broadband infrastructure – spurring growth and development, and helping to level the playing field for all Americans.”


“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 Senator Smith. “This bill represents a positive step forward in that direction, ensuring that traditionally overlooked communities are not left behind in our efforts to provide affordable and reliable internet service to all Minnesotans and other Americans.”


“From students completing homework to people of all ages applying online for jobs, broadband internet plays a crucial role in a community’s growth and economy. Expanding access to broadband will help create more opportunity for Marylanders, and will move our state forward on closing the digital divide. I’m proud to join my colleagues in introducing this common-sense legislation, and I will continue working to expand economic opportunity for all,” said Senator Van Hollen.


According to the Pew Research Center, nearly one in five teenagers in the U.S. say they have been unable to complete homework assignments due to lack of a reliable internet connection. The digital divide, also sometimes referred to as the “homework gap” as it applies to students, exacerbates existing wealth and income gaps in our communities; subsequently, many people—including those from communities of color, people with disabilities, low-income households, and rural communities, overwhelmingly impacted by the digital skills gap—are at risk of being left behind in an increasingly technology-driven world, absent intervention. To that end, the Digital Equity Act of 2019 strengthens federal support for efforts to help ensure students, families, and workers have the information technology capacity needed to fully participate in society by creating an annual $125 million formula grant program for all 50 States, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico to fund the creation and implementation of comprehensive digital equity plans in each State, as well as an additional annual $125 million competitive grant program to support digital equity projects undertaken by individual groups, coalitions, or communities of interest. Finally, the legislation tasks the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) with evaluating digital equity projects and providing policymakers at the local, state, and federal levels with detailed information about which projects are most effective.


“I believe the future belongs to the connected. No matter who you are or where you live in this country, you need access to modern communications to have a fair shot at 21st century success. But today millions of American lack the broadband access that they need to meaningfully participate in the digital age. That means too many students fall into the Homework Gap, unable to complete school assignments that require high-speed internet service. It means that too many small businesses will not have the work force with the skills necessary to compete in the global economy. It means that too many communities will go without the civic and commercial infrastructure that is needed to thrive and grow. So thank you to Senator Murray for this legislation which thoughtfully addresses digital equity and seeks to expand technology opportunity for all,” said Federal Communications Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel.


“Local and state leadership drive most efforts to bring people online with affordable Internet access and training.  On the one hand, this is fabulous because trusted community relationships are essential to effective digital inclusion work. On the other hand, financial support of local digital inclusion work is sorely lacking. The Digital Equity Act recognizes the value of local trusted institutions while allocating financial support. NDIA and our 350 affiliates in 41 states fully support the Digital Equity Act and look forward to its passage,” said National Digital Inclusion Alliance Executive Director Angela Siefer.


The Digital Equity Act of 2019 is endorsed by: Alliance for Community Media, American Library Association, Asian Americans Advancing Justice, Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, Broadband Connects America, Center for Law and Social Policy, Center for Media Justice, Chief Officers of State Library Agencies, Coalition on Adult Basic Education, Common Cause, Consortium for School Networking, Competitive Carriers Association, Free Press Action Fund, International Society for Technology in Education, National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors, National Coalition for Literacy, National Collaborative for Digital Equity, National Congress of American Indians, National Consumer Law Center on behalf of their low-income clients, National Digital Inclusion Alliance, National Hispanic Media Coalition, National League of Cities, National Parent Teacher Association, New America’s Open Technology Institute, Next Century Cities, NTEN, Public Knowledge, Schools, Health & Libraries Broadband Coalition, State Educational Technology Directors Association, and the Urban Libraries Council.


Read the bill text HERE.


Find more background on the Digital Equity Act HERE.


Find a section-by-section breakdown of the Digital Equity Act HERE.

The push to equity recognizes that people need the infrastructure but they also need the skills to use it.

NDIA names Casey Sorensen and Munirih Jester the 2019 Charles Benton Digital Equity Champions

Big news from the National Digital Inclusion Alliance conference. Delighted to see that Minnesota’s own Casey Sorenson recognized for his work at PCs for People…

The National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA) announced the 2019 Charles Benton Digital Equity Champion Award winners: PCs for People CEO Casey Sorensen and San Antonio Housing Authority Digital Inclusion Program Manager Munirih Jester.

Sorensen has headed PCs for People for over 11 years and crafted a self-sustainable, scalable social enterprise that is a national leader in digital inclusion. Under Sorensen’s leadership, PCs for People has grown from concept to a network of 300 nonprofits, 12 affiliates, and physical offices in three states that are working together to solve the digital divide. As a result of Sorensen’s efforts, over 250,000 people now have home computers and 128,000 people can access the internet in their home. PCs for People is based in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Munirih Jester serves as the Digital Inclusion ConnectHome Coordinator for the San Antonio Housing Authority (SAHA). Originally from Brazil, Munirih’s professional background is in Public Policy, Nonprofit Management, and Urban and Regional Planning. In her role as ConnectHome Coordinator, she has been able to deliver digital literacy skills training to nearly 2,000 participants, award nearly 900 free computers, and help connect 1,069 homes to the internet.