From MN Broadband Coalition – Action Alert! Broadband Funding

From the Minnesota Broadband Coalition…

Legislators are back at the Capitol for a special session. Budget bills began to move through the process this weekend and we expect them to continue working through June 30. We can’t let them leave Saint Paul without funding for the Border-to-Border Broadband Grant Program!
Right now, leaders have agreed to put at least $70 million for the grant program in the bonding bill. This bill requires a supermajority approval, which means Republicans and DFLers must vote for it.
We need your help! Please contact your legislators and urge them to pass a bonding bill that includes at least $70 million for broadband funding during the special session. Make sure to let them know you don’t want to see any changes to broadband policy language, too! The Coalition has opposed the proposed policy changes like adding “fixed wireless” to state broadband definitions.
We are asking you to email your state senator and your state representative TODAY and urge them to pass a bonding bill during the special session.
Tell them:

  • Keep their promise at the end of regular session to put $70 million in the grant program.
  • Around 157,000 Minnesotan households lack access to the lowest speeds considered broadband.
  • Pass a clean funding bill without any policy changes.
  • Without a bonding bill, the broadband grant program will have no funding and rural Minnesota will continue to be left behind.
  • Tell them your broadband story! If you have broadband, let them know how it has improved your life. If you don’t, tell them how it would help you and your community.

Contact Info

Please email your local legislators and the four legislative leaders

  • Find your local legislators’ contact information here.
  • Email the four legislative leaders here.
    • Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka
    • Speaker of the House Melissa Hortman
    • Senate Minority Leader Susan Kent
    • House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt

OPPORTUNITY: Apply for TechCongress Fellowship (deadline Aug 3)

This looks like such a great opportunity…

Since our founding in 2015, TechCongress has brought 45 incredible technologists to Congress. By bringing their technical expertise to Capitol Hill, our fellows have helped shape this country’s technology policy and fallen in love with the impact they can make.
During the last year, despite facing adversity from the pandemic, our fellows came together, dug in their heels, and went to work; they drafted major provisions of the COVID-19 relief bills, they helped author the House Judiciary Committee’s Antitrust Subcommittee report on Big Tech, and carried out many of the House Modernization Committee’s recommendations to make Congress more effective, efficient and transparent.
We are thrilled to build on this momentum and announce that applications are now open for the 2022 Congressional Innovation Fellowship!
We are searching for talented technologists, engineers, and data analysts who are passionate about bringing their technical expertise to Congress to help shape current and future tech policy.
Over the next six weeks, we’ll be holding networking events and information calls where you can ask us questions, meet the fellows, and learn more about the fellowship. Applications will close at 11:59 pm ET on Tuesday, August 3rd.
Want to learn more? Join us for our first informational call on Wednesday, June 23 at 5pm ET! Be sure to also listen to our podcast, check out our website, and follow us on Twitter for more updates!

OPPORTUNITY: Applications for schools and libraries to get tech equipment open June 29

Telecompetitor reports

Schools and libraries can start filing applications on June 29 for financial support for various tech equipment, including laptops and tablets, Wi-Fi hotspots, modems, routers, and broadband connectivity for off-campus use by students, school staff, and library patrons. The funding comes available by way of the $7.17 billion Emergency Connectivity Fund, the FCC announced.

The fund itself is the largest single effort for student connectivity in the nation’s history, according to acting FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel It was designed to build on the the processes and structures of the existing E-Rate program, a Universal Service Fund (USF) program aimed at assisting schools and libraries with technology and connectivity funding support.

The need is evident, according to the FCC, with as many as 17 million children without the broadband access they need for remote learning. Applications will be accepted through Aug. 13. The FCC will also hold a webinar on June 25th at at 2:00 p.m. EDT to outline the program and discuss the application process.

US 2021 Digital Equity Act proposes $1 billion in grants for digital inclusion

NDIA (National Digital Inclusion Alliance) reports

Originally introduced in April 2019 by U.S. Senator Patty Murray (WA), and reintroduced in 2021 the Digital Equity Act proposes to authorize more than $1 billion in Federal grant funding over the next five years to support digital inclusion programs throughout U.S. states and territories.

The Senate bill has been cosponsored by Senator Portman (OH).

The Digital Equity Act would create two major Federal grant programs, operated by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), to promote digital equity nationwide. The proposed funding for each program is $125 million per year for five years — a total of up to $1.25 billion.

One program would be carried out through state governments, with funding allocated by formula, and would incorporate state-by-state digital equity planning followed by implementation grants to qualifying programs.

The other would be an annual national competitive grant program, run by the NTIA, to support digital equity projects undertaken by individual groups, coalitions, and/or communities of interest anywhere in the U.S.

The Digital Equity Act references definitions of “Digital Inclusion” and “Digital Equity” developed by NDIA.

The NDIA has a host of tools to understand more, act and spread the word.

Schools have active shooter response, fire response, earthquake response… they need cybersecurity response

SC Magazine reports good news for some schools (none in MN) that have “won” cybersecurity support from IBM. In the process of inviting schools to apply for support, IBM gathered some disturbing information on school cybersecurity budgets…

Indeed, 50% of the more than 250 school districts that applied for the grant said in their applications that they have less than $100,000 allocated annually toward cybersecurity. “And that’s for an entire school district so when you get down to it, the school budgets are just incredibly low compared to the threats that they face,” said Rossman. Additionally, more than 55% of applicants said their districts don’t provide any security training to staff members, while 40% said they have previously experienced a ransomware attack.

In fact, the Newhall School District, with 10 elementary schools and approximately 5900 students, learned of the grant program after experiencing its own ransomware attack last fall. Jeff Pelzel, superintendent, told SC Media he remembers coming into work on a Monday morning and finding himself unable to access certain systems.

And IBM saw the need to make resources available to a wider audience…

Fortunately, even the districts that applied but weren’t selected for the grant were still given access to some of IBM’s resources. “We’re going to have resources available on ibm.org for them to use,” said Rossman. These interactive offerings include ransomware assessments, and a video-based training module that designed to teach faculty members and students some basic cyber concepts. The builds on previous work on IBM’s part to host an education security assessment event for schools as well as virtual cyber range exercise that helped superintendents understand “what’s it like to experience a ransomware attack.”

They have a number of classes available online and aimed for students 14 years and older.

32,638 MN households enroll in Emergency Broadband Benefits

USAC (Universal Service Admin Co) reports on enrollments and claims for Emergency Broadband Benefits (EBB). As of June 7, 32,638 MN households had enrolled. According to Erik Flock at E-Rate Central, that is 1.5 percent of the Minnesota total households. Compared to other states, Minnesota ranks 30th for adoption rates. Louisiana has highest adoption rate (4.7 percent) and North Dakota has the lowest (.2 percent) with the statewide adoption rate is 1.9 percent.

Want to know more about EBB? Or want to help others find out about it? Send them to GetEmergencyBroadband.org.

OPPORTUNITY: Lead For Minnesota 2021 Fellowship Registration

Here’s a fantastic opportunity for anyone looking for a local AmeriCorps Opportunity from Lead for Minnesota

Lead For Minnesota’s Fellowship selects, trains, and places our nation’s most promising young leaders in two-year paid fellowships in local community organizations – such as local government, nonprofits, and community-based organizations – as a means of strengthening America’s public institutions, revitalizing our local communities, and cultivating a new generation of transformational community leaders. Lead For Minnesota is an AmeriCorps program, and as such, applicants are eligible to become AmeriCorps members if qualified.

At this time, we are accepting applications for applicant-led positions. Candidates can apply to serve any community where they have strong personal ties. If selected as a Finalist, Lead For Minnesota will support applicant-led candidates in identifying a suitable host placement in their community of choice.

OPPORTUNITY: Nominations now open for 2021 Unsung Hero Awards!

I feel like we might know some broadband unsung heroes we could nominate

The McKnight Foundation and MCN are excited to open nominations for the fourth annual Virginia McKnight Binger Unsung Hero Awards – with recipients each receiving $10,000!

We invite you to nominate the Unsung Hero in your life, someone who hasn’t gotten the recognition they deserve for making a lasting difference in their community.

Four Minnesotans — two from the Twin Cities metro and two from Greater Minnesota — will each receive $10,000 in recognition of the significant impact they have had on the state of Minnesota and its communities. Nominations are now open through Friday, June 25, 2021 at 5pm CST.

Wright County – time to take a broadband speed test

Truth is everyone is welcome to take the Minnesota speed test and I encourage everyone to do it – but I like to amplify a local push to get folks on board. Patch shares a letter from Wright County Government

As part of the American Rescue Plan, Wright County is looking to lay fiber in the ground to get internet service providers to offer new or upgraded service to the areas in the county (primarily in the western portion) that have the slowest broadband speeds. As part of this effort, Wright County is asking residents to take an internet speed through the Minnesota Rural Broadband Coalition. The MRBC doesn’t use tracking cookies or store personal data or addresses. It saves locations to identify where upgrades are most needed. The speed test takes just a couple of minutes and will help county planners identify areas that have the greatest need. To take the speed test, click here: https://mnruralbroadbandcoalition.com/speedtest

EVENT May 14: Emergency Broadband Benefit Day of Action

Folks are declaring Friday Emergency Broadband Benefit Day of Action to help spread the word to your residents and constituents that help is there is help make broadband more affordable. There will be an online event to help people get info to share…

Emergency Broadband Benefit Day of Action

Enrollment for the Emergency Broadband Benefit will begin on May 12, 2021. Every eligible household needs to learn about this program and how to enroll.
On May 14th, non-profit organizations, anchor institutions, and local and state governments will join forces to build awareness about who is eligible and how to reach residents that continue to struggle with connectivity. In this webinar, local and state leaders will share strategies to support outreach and completing enrollment.

Time : May 14, 2021 01:00 PM in Eastern Time (US and Canada)

There’s also the FCC Outreach Toolkit and USAC Outreach Toolkit for templates that can be used to:

  • Build awareness on social media.
  • Include a section about the EBB in your city council newsletter.
  • Circulate a fact sheet on how the EBB could positively impact your community.
  • Post flyers in community centers and libraries.
  • Partner with faith-based groups and community organizers to educate the public.
  • Make public service announcements on local news and radio stations.
  • Send program info via text message.

OPPORTUNITY: Telecommunications Analyst Job MN Dep of Commerce

The Minnesota Department of Commerce is hiring

Job Class: Public Utilities Rates Analyst 2 or 3
Working Title: Telecommunications Analyst
Job Summary

This vacancy is being posted at 2 job classes: PURA 2 – PURA 3.  Final job class will be determined based on successful applicant’s qualifications.

This position performs a variety of tasks to fulfill the Department’s statutory responsibilities with respect to the telecommunications marketplace. The telecommunications unit seeks to protect consumers from abusive tactics, and works to advance competition in a manner that is consistent with the public interest. The successful applicant will review new and existing telecommunications carrier petitions to determine compliance with statutory requirements and Minnesota rules.  The position will investigate problems experienced by consumers, and competitors in the marketplace; draft reports for actions before the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission; and enforce statutes, rules and Commission orders.

 

OPPORTUNITY: Community Economic and Workforce Development Grants from Just Transition Fund

An opportunity from Just Transition Fund for communities that are transitioning from coal. Minnesota communities are eligible and it looks like broadband projects might be a good fit…

The Just Transition Fund is on a mission to create economic opportunity for the frontline communities and workers hardest hit by the transition away from coal. Our goal is to build resilient communities by advancing economic solutions that are equitable, inclusive, and low-carbon. We provide both grants and technical assistance to frontline communities as we work to strengthen the capacity of the coal transition movement. Guided by a belief in the power of communities, we partner with innovative organizations that are working to create high road jobs, build local wealth, and improve conditions for those most affected by the changing coal economy.
We will award grants in 2021 through two funding cycles: Community Economic and Workforce Development (Cycle 1, May-July) and Policy & Planning (Cycle 2, September-November). We are currently accepting inquiries for Cycle 1. (Rapid response grants are also available on a rolling basis to grantees only. Please see our website for more information.)

OPPORTUNITY: Small Cities Coronavirus CDBG-CV Program Call for Applications

From MN DEED…

Small Cities Coronavirus CDBG-CV Program

The Small Cities Development Program Unit is accepting grant applications for eligible activities addressing community needs to prevent, prepare for, and respond to the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19). These activities include broadband development, public services, retrofitting/repurposing buildings and commercial rehabilitation through the Small Cities Development Program (SCDP) under M.S. § 116J.401.

Call for Applications – Call for Applications

The deadline for the submission of applications is no later than 4:30 p.m. on June 1, 2021.Applications must be submitted to the Department of Employment and Economic Development, Business and Community Development Division, Small Cities Development Program Unit, 1st National Bank Building, 332 Minnesota Street, Suite E200, St. Paul, MN 55101-1351. One original and one copy of the application, including all required attachments must be submitted by the deadline to be considered for funding. Faxed or e-mailed applications will not be accepted.

Webinar

DEED will be hosting a webinar to provide potential applicants with an overview of the program and to answer any questions.

Microsoft Teams meeting

1:00 p.m., Friday, April 23, 2021Join on your computer or mobile app Or call in (audio only)1- 651-395-7448
Phone Conference ID: 687 187 744#

OPPORTUNITY: Community Broadband Outreach Organizer and Community Broadband Intern

An opportunity from the Institute for Local Self Reliance

The Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) is a national nonprofit working to empower communities by striking at the roots of monopoly power and striving toward a vision of thriving, diverse, equitable communities. We use in-depth research, reporting, and data analysis to produce influential reports and articles. Our analyses are frequently featured in national news media and sought out by policymakers. We work closely with a broad range of local community leaders, elected officials, and a diverse coalition of allies to advance these ideas and policies.

Community Broadband Organizer

ILSR is looking for an enthusiastic candidate to assist these local organizing efforts. Our Community Broadband Networks program has many resources and contacts that can dramatically accelerate local organizing efforts. This position will require frequent meetings with local groups to understand their goals and challenges, as well as organizing more general support systems like mutual-aid calls and other resources as needed. Success will mean many more communities will achieve digital equity more rapidly than would otherwise occur.

Get more details.

The FCC asks you to take their Speed Test

From the FCC

As part of the Commission’s Broadband Data Collection effort to collect comprehensive data on broadband availability across the United States, the FCC is encouraging the public to download the FCC’s Speed Test app, which is currently used to collect speed test data as part of the FCC’s Measuring Broadband America program.  The app provides a way for consumers to test the performance of their mobile and in-home broadband networks.  In addition to showing network performance test results to the user, the app provides the test results to the FCC while protecting the privacy and confidentiality of program volunteers.

“To close the gap between digital haves and have nots, we are working to build a comprehensive, user-friendly dataset on broadband availability.  Expanding the base of consumers who use the FCC Speed Test app will enable us to provide improved coverage information to the public and add to the measurement tools we’re developing to show where broadband is truly available throughout the United States,” said Acting Chairwoman Rosenworcel.

The network coverage and performance information gathered from the Speed Test data will help to inform the FCC’s efforts to collect more accurate and granular broadband deployment data. The app will also be used in the future for consumers to challenge provider-submitted maps when the Broadband Data Collection systems become available.  More information about the app is available on the FCC website.  The FCC Speed Test App is available in the Google Play Store for Android devices, and in the Apple App Store for iOS devices.