Lunch Bunch ADA and digital accessibility with Belo Cipriani: Notes and Video

Big thanks to Belo Cipriani, owner of Oleb Media for joining us today for the Lunch Bunch. We had a great conversation on the need to bring people and communities with disabilities into the wider community and into broadband and digital equity conversations. Belo comes to us as a noted disability advocate and someone who has overcome barriers of blindness – through technology and by improving technology.

Here is the original description of the event:

On October 27 we will have Belo Cipriani, owner of Oleb Media, a digital access firm that helps companies ensure their products and services meet ADA accessibility requirements. Belo is on the Minnesota Council on Disability and is an author of a blog on accessibility (recent post on How to Improve the Digital Accessibility of Your Business may be of interest) and several books. I’ve asked Belo to join us to chat about accessibility and hope he might tell us a little about his interesting life. I’m also hoping people will bring their questions and thoughts.

And a few notes – although I think it’s worth a listen because technology can be a tool to unite your community, or divide it. It can be an opportunity to draw new residents to your community or it can leave you on shelf. Belo talked about:

How he approaches an accessibility plan:

  • Testing
  • Connectivity
  • Training

How he approaches digital equity training:

  • Engage
  • Study
  • Activate

And types of tech users:

  • Novices
  • Specialized users
  • Power users

A lot of what people can do in their workplace or community to support people with disabilities starts with procurement. Choose tools that will accommodate differing abilities and then know how to use those tools and accommodations.

One lesson I walked away with is remembering while that I may be a specialized power user that doesn’t mean my way couldn’t be improved to make it more accessible to others. And I can probably re-learn to become a power user with a new special software or solution.

Which providers in MN can get voice-only lifeline service support? CNS has a map!

Back in June (2021), the FCC announced the census blocks where providers could still receive financial support for voice-only lifeline services…

Today, the Wireline Competition Bureau (Bureau) announces those Census blocks where Lifeline support for voice-only service will continue at $5.25 per month from December 1, 2021 through November 30, 2022. These Census blocks can be found on the Universal Service Administrative Company’s (USAC) website here: https://www.usac.org/wpcontent/uploads/lifeline/documents/Data/voice_CB_blocks.zip.

In the 2016 Lifeline Order, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC or Commission) outlined a shift in the Lifeline program towards a greater focus on supporting broadband services for Lifeline eligible consumers.1 As part of that effort, the Commission adopted a transition period to phase down support for voice-only Lifeline services before reimbursement for such services would decrease to $0 on December 1, 2021.2 The Commission also adopted an exception to this complete phase-down in voice-only support and continued Lifeline support, in the amount of $5.25 per subscriber per month, for qualifying voice-only services provided to Lifeline eligible subscribers in Census blocks where there is only one Lifeline provider.3 The Commission directed the Bureau to identify Census blocks where there is only one Lifeline provider and to announce those Census blocks by June 1 of each year.

CNS has mapped out the areas, which is always a good way to take in this information, especially for policymakers. I have a screenshot here, the CNS map is interactive.

EVENT Oct 27: Lunch Bunch ADA and digital accessibility with Belo Cirpriani

Each month the Blandin Foundation hosts two conversation or lunch bunch sessions; on the second Wednesday of the month the focus is Infrastructure and on the fourth the focus is Digital Inclusion and Use.

I’m especially excited to have a special guest come in on Wednesday to talk about online accessibility issues. So much of my time is spent trying to get broadband to everyone – it’s important to remember to  maximize use for everyone too.

On October 27 we will have Belo Cipriani, owner of Oleb Media, a digital access firm that helps companies ensure their products and services meet ADA accessibility requirements. Belo is on the Minnesota Council on Disability and is an author of a blog on accessibility (recent post on How to Improve the Digital Accessibility of Your Business may be of interest) and several books. I’ve asked Belo to join us to chat about accessibility and hope he might tell us a little about his interesting life. I’m also hoping people will bring their questions and thoughts.

Remember, this is always a conversation, please come with questions and/or ideas. Register here!

Is the digital divide sexist? Spoiler alert – yes!

The Alliance for Affordable Internet takes a look at the economic consequences of the digital gender gap noting that…

Men are 21% more likely to be online than women globally, rising to 52% in Least Developed Countries.

Here are their high level findings:

  • There is a substantial digital gender gap — and it’s not getting better. In the 32 countries we studied, just over a third of women were connected to the internet compared to almost half of men. Since 2011, the gender gap has only dropped half a percentage point, from 30.9% to 30.4%.
  • Countries have missed out on $1 trillion USD in GDP as a result of women’s exclusion from the digital world. In 2020, the loss to GDP was $126 billion USD.
  • This economic hit means billions in lost taxes that could be invested to improve education, health, and housing. This lost productivity translates to a missing $24 billion in tax revenues annually for these governments, based on current tax-to-GDP ratios
  • Governments are not adopting the policies they need to bridge the digital gender gap. Of all the policy areas covered by the Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI) in its annual Affordability Drivers Index, gender consistently receives the lowest scores. In the 2020 Affordability Report, over 40% of countries studied had no meaningful policies or programs to expand women’s access to the internet.
  • Policymakers have a $500 billion+ economic opportunity. Closing the digital gender gap in these countries would deliver an estimated $524 billion increase in economic activity by 2025.

Here are some of the contributing factors:

  • Affordability
  • Device gaps
  • Wage gaps
  • Privacy/security
  • Cumulative effect
  • Literacy and skills

They offer a range of more inclusive policy recommendations (in image at right).

FTC warns against scams to apply for Emergency Broadband Benefit

A reminder to everyone from c|net

The Federal Trade Commission is warning Americans about scams popping up on social media offering to “help” people sign up for the Emergency Broadband Benefit program, which provides people struggling through the pandemic with a subsidy to pay for monthly broadband access and a one-time only discount for a computer.

The notice, issued on Friday, warns that the ads are government impersonators that look and sound like legitimate government sites, complete with government seals, designed to trick people into handing over personal information or paying a fee.

OPPORTUNITIES: Help Hennepin with Digital Inclusion

Lots of opportunity in Hennepin County…

Digital Inclusion Week

This week is Digital Inclusion Week. At Hennepin County, we are taking time to highlight some of the opportunities to collaborate to ensure all residents have access to the technology they need to achieve their goals.

If you have a story about the impact of technology, especially during the pandemic, use hashtags #DIW2021 and #digitalequityNOW during this week to join the conversation.

Stay tuned for more news in the coming days as local government leaders raise further awareness about this important topic.

 

Requests for Proposals

Hennepin County is seeking proposals for the following digital inclusion activities:

All RFP materials are posted in the Hennepin County Supplier Portal.

The digital divide disproportionately impacts Black, brown, and Indigenous people; seniors; and students. Organizations that serve communities of color, people with limited English proficiency, elders, and youth are encouraged to apply.

Digital Navigation RFP

This funding opportunity is available to community-based organizations to provide digital navigation and broadband adoption services.

An addendum with answers to questions received by September 30, 2021 is available in the Supplier Portal under the documents link.  You can also find the information by looking for the RFP titled “Digital Navigation.”

Key dates

  • Updated closing date for all questions: October 7, 2021
  • Application due date: October 14, 2021

 

Digital Skills Training RFP

This funding opportunity is available to businesses or organizations that can provide digital skills training that is accessible and available in multiple languages and learning formats, including web-based, phone based, and in-person training.

Key dates:

  • Closing date for all questions: October 19, 2021
  • Proposal due date: October 28, 2021

How to apply

To respond to either RFP, submit applications via the Hennepin County Supplier Portal. Providers who do not already have a Supplier Portal account first need to register with the Supplier Portal in order to submit their application.

Questions concerning either RFP should be submitted in writing via email to Ashley.Schweitzer@hennepin.us or Tina.Wong@hennepin.us.

Happy Digital Inclusion Week: Oct 4-8

The National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA) does a great job promoting and facilitating digital inclusion all year and this week is no exception…

Digital Inclusion Week is an annual campaign that recognizes local digital inclusion organizations and special events that promote digital equity across the country.

Please join us October 4-8, 2021 – this will be our biggest Digital Inclusion Week ever, with seasoned practitioners and newly launched programs hosting virtual and in-person events. DIW aims to raise awareness of solutions addressing home internet access, personal devices, and local technology training and support programs.

Check out their site for tools and events!

FCC Commits Over $1.2B in First Emergency Connectivity Funding Wave ($19M in MN)

The FCC reports

The Federal Communications Commission today announced that it is committing $1,203,107,496.88 for 3,040 schools, 260 libraries, and 24 consortia that applied for support from the $7.17 billion Emergency Connectivity Fund Program.  This first wave of funding commitments will provide students, school staff and library patrons in all 50 states and Guam, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia access to the devices and broadband connectivity they need to support their off-campus education needs.   The funding will support 3,081,131 devices and 774,115 broadband connections and help connect over 3.6 million students who, according to their schools, would otherwise lack devices, broadband access, or both. More details about which schools and libraries will receive funding can be found here: https://docs.fcc.gov/public/attachments/DOC-376028A2.xlsx.  Interested applicants can still seek program funding starting on September 28.

Minnesota organizations received $19,830,464.06. I know the table won’t format well here – but it’s here for search sake and you can also open the info in Excel.

State Congressional District Applicant Type City Equipment Obligated $ Services Obligated $ Total Obligated $
MN Congressional District 1 School District OWATONNA $15,249.80 $38,505.60 $53,755.40
MN Congressional District 1 Library System ROCHESTER $400,000.00 $219,670.00 $619,670.00
MN Congressional District 1 School District ADAMS $14,152.00 $0.00 $14,152.00
MN Congressional District 1 School District CALEDONIA $43,706.00 $0.00 $43,706.00
MN Congressional District 1 School District HOUSTON $32,000.00 $0.00 $32,000.00
MN Congressional District 1 School District LE ROY $8,820.00 $0.00 $8,820.00
MN Congressional District 1 School District LEWISTON $38,900.00 $9,600.00 $48,500.00
MN Congressional District 1 School District MABEL $31,310.30 $0.00 $31,310.30
MN Congressional District 1 School District STEWARTVILLE $14,950.00 $0.00 $14,950.00
MN Congressional District 1 School District SPRING VALLEY $22,117.20 $0.00 $22,117.20
MN Congressional District 1 School District ALDEN $54,720.00 $0.00 $54,720.00
MN Congressional District 1 School District BUTTERFIELD $5,832.00 $7,920.00 $13,752.00
MN Congressional District 1 School District WORTHINGTON $480,000.00 $0.00 $480,000.00
MN Congressional District 1 School WINONA $11,938.50 $0.00 $11,938.50
MN Congressional District 1 School District HOUSTON $4,800.00 $1,802.40 $6,602.40
MN Congressional District 1 School District WINONA $27,969.95 $2,399.40 $30,369.35
MN Congressional District 1 School FARIBAULT $20,416.44 $9,600.00 $30,016.44
MN Congressional District 1 Consortium Mankato $132,789.00 $447,700.00 $580,489.00
MN Congressional District 1 Consortium Adams $22,117.20 $0.00 $22,117.20
MN Congressional District 2 School District COTTAGE GROVE $716,800.00 $59,330.40 $776,130.40
MN Congressional District 2 School District FARMINGTON $0.00 $34,947.50 $34,947.50
MN Congressional District 2 School District HASTINGS $0.00 $17,600.00 $17,600.00
MN Congressional District 2 School District LAKEVILLE $0.00 $56,250.36 $56,250.36
MN Congressional District 2 School District RED WING $383,849.00 $72,000.00 $455,849.00
MN Congressional District 2 School District ROSEMOUNT $0.00 $136,350.00 $136,350.00
MN Congressional District 2 School District SOUTH ST PAUL $39,330.00 $34,800.00 $74,130.00
MN Congressional District 2 School District MENDOTA HEIGHTS $358,900.00 $0.00 $358,900.00
MN Congressional District 2 School District JORDAN $260,700.00 $0.00 $260,700.00
MN Congressional District 2 School District SHAKOPEE $0.00 $46,433.52 $46,433.52
MN Congressional District 2 School District MAZEPPA $280,885.40 $0.00 $280,885.40
MN Congressional District 3 School District LONG LAKE $0.00 $10,800.00 $10,800.00
MN Congressional District 3 School District MINNETRISTA $1,800.00 $9,117.60 $10,917.60
MN Congressional District 3 School District PLYMOUTH $0.00 $36,000.00 $36,000.00
MN Congressional District 3 School District BLOOMINGTON $0.00 $49,500.00 $49,500.00
MN Congressional District 3 School BROOKLYN PARK $119,731.50 $0.00 $119,731.50
MN Congressional District 3 School MINNETONKA $76,800.00 $9,000.00 $85,800.00
MN Congressional District 3 School MAPLE GROVE $102,900.00 $0.00 $102,900.00
MN Congressional District 3 School Victoria $9,025.75 $0.00 $9,025.75
MN Congressional District 4 School SAINT PAUL $64,717.00 $0.00 $64,717.00
MN Congressional District 4 School SAINT PAUL $19,788.00 $0.00 $19,788.00
MN Congressional District 4 School District STILLWATER $1,611,600.00 $96,000.00 $1,707,600.00
MN Congressional District 4 School District NORTH SAINT PAUL $0.00 $67,704.00 $67,704.00
MN Congressional District 4 School District WHITE BEAR LK $128,375.00 $23,520.00 $151,895.00
MN Congressional District 4 School District ROSEVILLE $114,780.00 $126,000.00 $240,780.00
MN Congressional District 4 Library System WOODBURY $0.00 $94,080.00 $94,080.00
MN Congressional District 4 School SAINT PAUL $10,000.00 $0.00 $10,000.00
MN Congressional District 4 School SAINT PAUL $10,378.00 $0.00 $10,378.00
MN Congressional District 4 School District ST PAUL $19,200.00 $0.00 $19,200.00
MN Congressional District 4 School SAINT PAUL $87,549.00 $4,320.00 $91,869.00
MN Congressional District 4 School SAINT PAUL $938,000.00 $119,880.00 $1,057,880.00
MN Congressional District 4 School ST PAUL $40,900.00 $0.00 $40,900.00
MN Congressional District 4 School SAINT PAUL $158,123.50 $0.00 $158,123.50
MN Congressional District 4 School ST PAUL $10,485.00 $0.00 $10,485.00
MN Congressional District 4 School ST PAUL $0.00 $33,412.80 $33,412.80
MN Congressional District 4 School ST PAUL $23,460.00 $0.00 $23,460.00
MN Congressional District 4 School WHITE BEAR LAKE $16,822.50 $0.00 $16,822.50
MN Congressional District 4 School St. Paul $47,340.00 $0.00 $47,340.00
MN Congressional District 4 School SAINT PAUL $29,300.00 $0.00 $29,300.00
MN Congressional District 5 School MINNEAPOLIS $22,061.70 $0.00 $22,061.70
MN Congressional District 5 School BROOKLYN CENTER $35,440.00 $0.00 $35,440.00
MN Congressional District 5 School District MINNEAPOLIS $77,850.00 $0.00 $77,850.00
MN Congressional District 5 School District COLUMBIA HEIGHTS $0.00 $34,375.00 $34,375.00
MN Congressional District 5 School District MINNEAPOLIS $0.00 $92,112.00 $92,112.00
MN Congressional District 5 School District MINNEAPOLIS $0.00 $288,000.00 $288,000.00
MN Congressional District 5 School RICHFIELD $74,800.00 $0.00 $74,800.00
MN Congressional District 5 School MINNEAPOLIS $40,000.00 $0.00 $40,000.00
MN Congressional District 5 School BROOKLYN CENTER $201,960.00 $0.00 $201,960.00
MN Congressional District 5 School MINNEAPOLIS $95,450.00 $0.00 $95,450.00
MN Congressional District 5 School MINNEAPOLIS $55,350.00 $0.00 $55,350.00
MN Congressional District 5 School MINNEAPOLIS $43,367.50 $0.00 $43,367.50
MN Congressional District 6 School COLD SPRING $90,610.80 $0.00 $90,610.80
MN Congressional District 6 School District FOREST LAKE $498,000.00 $0.00 $498,000.00
MN Congressional District 6 School District ANNANDALE $100,031.40 $0.00 $100,031.40
MN Congressional District 6 School District BECKER $411,600.00 $0.00 $411,600.00
MN Congressional District 6 School District BUFFALO $527,046.00 $0.00 $527,046.00
MN Congressional District 6 School District HOWARD LAKE $0.00 $4,004.88 $4,004.88
MN Congressional District 6 School District MAPLE LAKE $48,000.00 $9,000.00 $57,000.00
MN Congressional District 6 School District WACONIA $145,596.50 $40,080.00 $185,676.50
MN Congressional District 6 School District ANOKA $0.00 $163,440.00 $163,440.00
MN Congressional District 6 Library System BLAINE $22,657.00 $63,504.00 $86,161.00
MN Congressional District 6 School District COLD SPRING $0.00 $15,000.00 $15,000.00
MN Congressional District 6 School District SAINT FRANCIS $900,000.00 $486,438.00 $1,386,438.00
MN Congressional District 6 School COLOGNE $140,000.00 $23,194.80 $163,194.80
MN Congressional District 6 School BLAINE $47,014.00 $0.00 $47,014.00
MN Congressional District 6 School HAM LAKE $50,000.00 $0.00 $50,000.00
MN Congressional District 7 School WABASSO $21,953.33 $0.00 $21,953.33
MN Congressional District 7 School District ASHBY $47,514.00 $0.00 $47,514.00
MN Congressional District 7 School WHITE EARTH $47,909.00 $0.00 $47,909.00
MN Congressional District 7 School E GRAND FORKS $35,074.05 $0.00 $35,074.05
MN Congressional District 7 School District WINDOM $43,174.50 $4,700.00 $47,874.50
MN Congressional District 7 School District PIPESTONE $201,447.28 $4,682.17 $206,129.45
MN Congressional District 7 School District SLAYTON $24,000.00 $0.00 $24,000.00
MN Congressional District 7 School District BROWNS VALLEY $11,360.80 $0.00 $11,360.80
MN Congressional District 7 School District MONTEVIDEO $31,120.00 $0.00 $31,120.00
MN Congressional District 7 School District REDWOOD FALLS $0.00 $3,760.97 $3,760.97
MN Congressional District 7 School District ALEXANDRIA $731,175.00 $36,180.00 $767,355.00
MN Congressional District 7 School District BRANDON $114,634.75 $0.00 $114,634.75
MN Congressional District 7 School District MELROSE $163,895.00 $0.00 $163,895.00
MN Congressional District 7 School District SAUK CENTRE $201,750.00 $14,493.60 $216,243.60
MN Congressional District 7 School District BRECKENRIDGE $43,684.65 $8,194.20 $51,878.85
MN Congressional District 7 School District CLIMAX $4,000.00 $0.00 $4,000.00
MN Congressional District 7 School FERGUS FALLS $5,975.00 $0.00 $5,975.00
MN Congressional District 7 School District FOSSTON $27,485.00 $0.00 $27,485.00
MN Congressional District 7 School District TWIN VALLEY $110,000.00 $0.00 $110,000.00
MN Congressional District 7 School District ERSKINE $66,000.00 $0.00 $66,000.00
MN Congressional District 7 School District ROTHSAY $30,715.00 $0.00 $30,715.00
MN Congressional District 7 School District ULEN $7,200.00 $0.00 $7,200.00
MN Congressional District 7 School District UNDERWOOD $53,820.00 $0.00 $53,820.00
MN Congressional District 7 School District BAGLEY $299.90 $17,635.59 $17,935.49
MN Congressional District 7 School District CROOKSTON $69,010.50 $7,198.20 $76,208.70
MN Congressional District 7 School District FISHER $30,000.00 $0.00 $30,000.00
MN Congressional District 7 School District WARROAD $120,000.00 $0.00 $120,000.00
MN Congressional District 7 Consortium HUTCHINSON $562,285.35 $22,860.00 $585,145.35
MN Congressional District 7 School District BAUDETTE $26,799.00 $0.00 $26,799.00
MN Congressional District 7 School District OKLEE $48,443.00 $0.00 $48,443.00
MN Congressional District 7 School HUTCHINSON $73,000.00 $5,935.68 $78,935.68
MN Congressional District 8 School District CAMBRIDGE $154,102.00 $0.00 $154,102.00
MN Congressional District 8 School District HINCKLEY $93,135.00 $0.00 $93,135.00
MN Congressional District 8 School District LINDSTROM $319,482.00 $6,000.00 $325,482.00
MN Congressional District 8 School District AURORA $28,787.50 $0.00 $28,787.50
MN Congressional District 8 School District CARLTON $154,000.00 $0.00 $154,000.00
MN Congressional District 8 School District CHISHOLM $0.00 $11,695.52 $11,695.52
MN Congressional District 8 School District COLERAINE $37,831.43 $28,896.00 $66,727.43
MN Congressional District 8 School District CROMWELL $0.00 $10,807.50 $10,807.50
MN Congressional District 8 School District MCGREGOR $7,170.00 $10,745.28 $17,915.28
MN Congressional District 8 School District WRENSHALL $95,745.50 $0.00 $95,745.50
MN Congressional District 8 School District LITTLE FALLS $334,900.00 $69,752.88 $404,652.88
MN Congressional District 8 School District MILACA $142,810.00 $17,100.00 $159,910.00
MN Congressional District 8 School District SWANVILLE $47,280.00 $10,800.00 $58,080.00
MN Congressional District 8 School District UPSALA $70,547.50 $0.00 $70,547.50
MN Congressional District 8 School District BRAINERD $938,700.00 $0.00 $938,700.00
MN Congressional District 8 School District DEER RIVER $20,000.00 $6,600.00 $26,600.00
MN Congressional District 8 School District LITTLEFORK $11,292.00 $23,594.23 $34,886.23
MN Congressional District 8 School District NORTHOME $56,274.00 $0.00 $56,274.00
MN Congressional District 8 School WARBA $41,250.00 $0.00 $41,250.00
MN Congressional District 8 School District VIRGINIA $25,820.00 $6,357.00 $32,177.00
MN Congressional District 8 School ISANTI $24,278.00 $0.00 $24,278.00
MN Congressional District 9 School District DILWORTH $160,350.00 $1,440.00 $161,790.00
$16,407,642.98 $3,422,821.08 $19,830,464.06

Nomination Deadline Extended for FCC Chair’s Awards for Advancement in Accessibility

Word from the FCC. Let’s try to flood the market with Minnesota folks and projects!

Last Friday, the FCC announced the extension of the nomination deadline for the 2021 FCC Chair’s Awards for Advancement in Accessibility (AAA).  Nominations are now due on Friday, October 1, 2021. 

The AAA highlights innovative practices, technologies, policies, and research that address longstanding or novel accessibility gaps in communications technologies. This year’s awards will recognize particularly notable or creative ways that technical solutions have been developed or deployed to provide accessibility to people with disabilities during the COVID-19 environment.  Additional information about the AAA and nomination procedures can be found at the original FCC Chair’s AAA Public Notice.   

For more information, please contact Deandrea Wilson (202-418-0703), Chantal Virgile (202-418-0056) or call the ASL Consumer Support Line at 1-844-432-2275 via videophone. Inquiries and nominations may also be sent to FCCAAA@fcc.gov. 

It’s time for the MN Broadband Model to bring broadband to communities without ability to ask

The Duluth News Tribune posts a letter to the editor from David Beard, who teaches writing and communication at the University of Minnesota Duluth. He outlines some projects that have done a great job bringing broadband to some parts of the northland but the letter is a reminder that we are not all there and until we are, we need to keep working…

Imagine if you had to drive to your local library to virtually visit with a therapist about your increasing anxiety during the pandemic. Or imagine if you had to drive to the community center to ask your doctor to take a look at the mole that appeared on your forearm. It sounds inconvenient, invasive, and awkward.

And yet, for as long as one in 10 Minnesotans lacks access to broadband internet, we are telling our (mostly rural) neighbors that we don’t care how inconvenient, invasive, and awkward it can be for them to see their doctor.

Broadband internet access is a health care equity issue, and we need to do more.

US Senator introduce Legislation for device vouchers program to close the digital divide

An interesting proposal to help get devices into the hands that need them; Sen McEachin reports

Congressman A. Donald McEachin (VA-04) and Senator Reverend Raphael Warnock (D-GA) introduced the Device Access for Every American Act to ensure more Americans can afford connected devices. The bicameral legislation would authorize the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to establish a program to administer up to $400 vouchers for low-income Americans to purchase laptops, tablets, and desktop computers.

Millions of households across the nation lack access to connected devices. While computer access is nearly ubiquitous amongst high-income households, 40% of low-income adults lack a desktop or laptop computer. Additionally, 4.4 million households with students lack consistent access to a computer.

“Laptops, tablets, and other connected devices are indispensable in our increasingly digital world. Many students’ homework assignments now require laptops, more employers are exploring telework models, and more doctors’ offices are migrating toward telehealth services as the new standard of care,” said Rep. McEachin (VA-04). “The COVID-19 pandemic has further demonstrated this need and underscored the stark disparities that currently exist in our country. For too many low-income Americans, prohibitive costs pose unnecessary challenges and hardships for them and their families. I am proud to introduce the Device Access for Every American Act, along with my colleague, Senator Warnock, to improve access to these vital devices, connect millions of American households, and help close the digital divide once and for all.”

“It is nearly impossible to get by without access to a laptop or tablet—especially after a year of adjusting to virtual learning, working, and more,” said Sen. Warnock (D-GA). “For that, I am incredibly proud to introduce the Device Access for Every American Act, which ensures that every American – regardless of income or zip code – has the ability to participate and thrive in our increasingly digital economy. This legislation also ensures students stay on track, especially following a year of learning loss, with the necessary devices at their disposal.”

Tool Template: Finding the Broadband Internet Service That Works for Your Family

There is a great template for schools (or others) to help you help your students or other folks get the broadband they need. It’s called Finding the Broadband Internet Service That Works for Your Family. My colleague Bill Coleman created it with feedback from Marc Johnson at ECMECC walks folks through better understanding the technology and who to call to get better service or help. You can customize it based on what is available in your community or through your school. So it’ll take a little time to make it most useful but it seems like that there’s someone at your school or office already answering these questions on a regular basis so it might be an easy way to quit reinventing the wheel!

Recommendations for reforming universal service to keep it around longer!

SHLB Coalition, INCOMPAS, and NTCA, with support from Public Knowledge recently released a report on Reforming Universal Service Contributions Mechanism, which could also be called – how to save Universal Service and help keep more online at all incomes. They look at some options…

To ensure the enduring value of the USF program and America’s connectivity goals, we must have a smart and substantive conversation about the pro[1]gram’s future. At the request of INCOMPAS, NTCA – the Rural Broadband Association, and the Schools, Health & Libraries Broadband (SHLB) Coalition, this report analyzes several options for FCC reform of the current status quo that have been pending in FCC rulemakings dating back to the early 2000’s: (1) modifying the current revenues-based contribution methodology to assess broadband internet access service revenues, (2) assessing connections, or (3) assessing telephone numbers.

They make recommendations…

Reforming the current revenues-based system to include broadband internet access service revenues is the preferred approach, both as a matter of policy and ease of implementation. Doing so would reduce the contribution factor to less than 4%.

First, it is appropriate as a matter of public policy to assess broadband internet access service revenues because all four programs in the USF promote universal broadband. The revenues from broadband internet access services that are increasingly used by Americans today should contribute to the USF programs that support the expansion of such services to all. This will better reflect the value of broadband internet access service in today’s marketplace for both consumers and businesses.

Second, broadband internet access service revenues are expected to be stable in the future, with the potential for some modest growth. This would stabilize the funding mechanism and stop the death spiral in the current USF contribution methodology.

Third, it is a solution that can be implemented more quickly than the alternatives. It would be far less uncertain than seeking congressional intervention and can be done by the FCC pursuant to its current statutory mandate. FCC reform of the USF contribution mechanism now is an important first step in stabilizing the current system.

Fourth, there is a significant advantage to retaining the current revenues-based system because most of the revenues reported to the FCC for USF purposes come from publicly traded companies that are audited and subject to stringent financial

reporting standards for their revenues. This external financial scrutiny would provide an additional level of assurance that the metric used to assess USF contributions is accurately reported.

Fifth, assessing both broadband internet access service and voice services removes the incentives of providers to arbitrarily allocate revenues from bundled services to one service and not the other. This creates an inequitable situation where some end users continue to pay into USF, while others do not, yet everyone benefits from the positive network externalities of universal connectivity made possible from the four USF programs that support broad[1]band-capable networks and service.

Reform of the current system of financing universal service is long overdue. The FCC has sought comment multiple times on various permutations of the options analyzed in this report and has the ability to move forward to assess broadband internet access service revenues without congressional action. The rapid increase in the contribution factor over the last decade and potentially in the future puts the stability of the entire USF at risk. While other proposals to help finance universal broadband may warrant further examination, the FCC should reform the current contribution methodology now to assess broadband internet access service revenues.

FCC expands Emergency Broadband Benefit Program eligibility for another year

The FCC reports

By this Public Notice, the Wireline Competition Bureau (Bureau) announces that it will expand the school years that will be acceptable for eligibility determination purposes for the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program (EBB Program).  As a result of this change, households that can demonstrate participation in the free and reduced price school lunch program or school breakfast program for the 2021-2022 school year will now be eligible for the benefit.

The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 (CAA or Act)[1] provides that households with members who are approved to participate in the free and reduced price school lunch program or school breakfast program are eligible for the EBB Program,[2] and the Commission’s rules adopted this eligibility criteria.[3]  In the EBB Program Order, the Commission clarified that, in addition to households that apply for and are approved to receive benefits under the free and reduced price school lunch program or school breakfast program, households with students that are enrolled in schools that participate in the USDA Community Eligibility Provision will also be eligible for the EBB Program under the school lunch program or school breakfast program eligibility criteria.[4]  The Commission further agreed with commenters that proposed that the Commission allow proof of enrollment in these programs for either the 2019-2020 or 2020-2021 school year, “given that many schools have been closed since mid-March 2020 due to the pandemic and students may not be enrolled in the programs” in the 2020-2021 school year.[5]  Based on the EBB Program Order, the EBB Program application and other EBB program guidance specifically identify the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 school years as eligible school years for purposes of qualifying for the EBB Program, but do not discuss any subsequent school years.

 

Are you ready for Digital Inclusion Week Oct 4-8?

There’s still time to plan so I wanted to share info from NDIA (National Digital Inclusion Alliance) on Digital Inclusion Week 2021…

Digital Inclusion Week is an annual campaign that recognizes local digital inclusion organizations and special events that promote digital equity across the country.

Please join us October 4-8, 2021 – this will be our biggest Digital Inclusion Week ever, with seasoned practitioners and newly launched programs hosting virtual and in-person events. DIW aims to raise awareness of solutions addressing home internet access, personal devices, and local technology training and support programs.

Here’s how it works:

  • Create or find an activity in your area that builds inclusion by providing computer training, media literacy, affordable devices, or internet access to people on the wrong side of digital divides – or builds public awareness.

  • Use the social media kit to raise awareness around the digital divide and the incredible work your community is doing to reach digital inclusion.

  • Connect with colleagues around the country to share ideas through our mailing list.

  • Use hashtags #DIW2021 and #digitalequityNOW during the week of October 4th to join the conversation and celebrate progress.

Learn more – and get resources to help!