OPPORTUNITY: MuniNetworks is hiring GIS and Data Visualization Researcher

From the Institute for Local Self Reliance

ILSR’s Community Broadband Networks program seeks a GIS and Data Visualization Specialist. We are looking for candidates that have a passion for using their skills as part of a team focused on justice and equity for all. Our mission is focused on a range of digital equity challenges but this position will also offer opportunities to work on larger ILSR projects and goals.

RESPONSIBILITIES:

  • Create informative broadband coverage maps using public and internal databases, including the infamous FCC Form 477
  • Compile statistics related to Internet access across datasets
  • Creatively develop visual resources to educate policymakers and activists on issues around Internet access
  • Support ongoing research for longer reports and projects
  • Support research for our allies and partners, often working with BIPOC communities

QUALIFICATIONS:

  • Strong writing, research, and communications skills
  • Graduate-level coursework in or professional experience working with spatial datasets or mapping efforts
  • Ability to combine both spatial datasets and nonspatial datasets to create user-facing products or as intermediary steps in research projects
  • Proficiency with statistics and GIS applications, experience cleaning data
  • Background knowledge of public policy and/or economics (preferred, but not required)
  • Creative thinking – graphics, videos, audio, maps, etc.
  • Ability to work independently and juggle multiple tasks
  • Enthusiasm for policy work to improve Internet access for everyone, but an appreciation of how uneven broadband access disproportionately harms historically marginalized communities

You do not need to know much about broadband policy or telecommunications when you start. Our team is well-versed in helping colleagues rapidly learn the intricacies around broadband policy. This is not a new position – our team has had a GIS specialist for several years, and we look forward to continuing this work. Though many on the team are in Minnesota, our team is geographically diverse. This position may support other ILSR programs with data analysis and mapping and, as is common with smaller organizations, may require some time to help with administrative tasks from time to time.

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!

OPPORTUNITY: Nominate a 20/20 Visionary

Public Knowledge has an opportunity…

This year marks PK’s 20th anniversary and its accomplishments over the past 20 years. In honor of this, we’ll be recognizing 20 future leaders in the tech policy field.

Do you know someone that has made a significant impact and will continue to do so in the years to come? You can nominate them at Publicknowledge.org/Visionaries. This is the last week to get in your nominees!

These 20/20 Visionaries will be selected by a panel of judges based on:

  • Potential to contribute positively to the development of tech policy in the future
  • Demonstrated impact on public interest tech policy
  • Potential to be a future leader
  • Experience at a tech policy advocacy group, think tank, or other NGO, in a local community, in government, and/or in a position in the tech-related sector that influences tech policy and access in the public interest

You can nominate anyone who is early in their tech policy career, regardless of age or previous experience. There are no cutoffs, although we anticipate nominees will have fewer than 10 years of experience.

You have a week left to nominate someone. Please go ahead and nominate them today.

OPPORTUNITY: Free Chromebooks for MN Families in Need

From Minnesota Afterschool Advance

Minnesota Afterschool Advance (MAA) is here to help your family get a device to assist your student’s education! By using both the K-12 Education Tax Credit and scholarship dollars from Youthprise, we’re committed to getting even more Minnesota families a Chromebook.

How can MAA help?

If your household income is under $33,500 in 2020 and 2021 and you file taxes, MAA can use a tool called the K-12 Education Tax Credit plus scholarship dollars from Youthprise to get you a Chromebook for no additional cost, plus save you 75% or more on afterschool and summer activities like tutoring, music lessons, and driver’s education. Learn more about how MAA works by watching a short animated video.

We are limited to one device per household due to tax credit rules.

How can I get a Chromebook?

  1. Apply to MAA

    The first step is to apply to MAA, so we can determine your eligibility.

    Since the computer hardware option is limited to one per family, you only need to submit an application for one eligible student, but you may apply for additional students if you want to use MAA to pay for afterschool and summer activities as well. We will generally review your application within a few business days.

  2. Select Your Chromebook

    Once approved, we will send you a special link to order your Chromebook and have it shipped to you.

  3. Receive Your Chromebook

    In most cases, shipping takes around one week or less depending on your location.

  4. Watch for Additional Instructions from MAA at the End of the Year

    MAA gets repaid by the State when you file your state income tax return at the end of the year. The Department of Revenue will directly repay the amount MAA advances to you from the Tax Credit dollars (these are additional dollars on top of your regular refund). To help with tax filing, MAA will provide instructions to assist you and also let you know about available free tax preparation services.

Is my student eligible?

For a limited time, we have expanded eligibility rules to qualify for a Chromebook!

Students are generally eligible if:

  • They are in grades K-12.

  • Your household income in 2020 and 2021 is under $33,500.

View detailed eligibility rules and guidelines.

OPPORTUNITY: AmeriCorps VISTA Digital Literacy Project Proposals Request

Literacy Minnesota reports on an opportunity…

Literacy Minnesota is expanding our AmeriCorps VISTA program nationally with a focus on digital literacy.
If you are interested in applying, please fill out this form for more information.  We seek proposals from government agencies, nonprofits and Tribal Nations interested in hosting one or more full-time AmeriCorps VISTA member to support digital literacy programs and services for low-income communities.
Additional information has also been pasted below.  The expansion and focus on digital literacy are informed by Literacy Minnesota’s core value of leadership and innovation, and we welcome the opportunity to work together.  Thank you for your consideration.
The Request for Proposals is attached and linked, here.  Please contact Meghan Paul-Cook, National Service Director (mpaulcook@literacymn.org; 651-251-9069) with any questions or to discuss project ideas.

  • Host site applications due online by October 1, 2021.
  • Literacy Leader VISTA members will start their service in January 2022.
  • Check out our website for more information: www.literacymn.org/americorps-vista.

Build capacity and invest in emerging leadership by hosting a Literacy Leader.
Literacy Minnesota seeks proposals from nonprofits, public agencies and Tribal Nations anywhere in the United States interested in hosting one or more full-time AmeriCorps VISTA members with our Literacy Leadership program’s Digital Literacy cohort in the 2021-22 program year. A Literacy Leadership VISTA enables your organization to turn a dream project into a reality, and to launch new, expand or improve digital literacy programs and services for low-income individuals and communities. Literacy Leaders receive a modest living allowance, Education Award, healthcare allowance, training and professional development, and other benefits.

OPPORTUNITY: Dakota County RFP Systems Plan Update and Business Analysis

Dakota County has an RFP for Systems Plan Update and Business Analysis

Overview and Purpose of the RFP

The Dakota Broadband Board (DBB) is interested in updating the existing Systems Plan for its broadband fiber network, and in conducting a business analysis of the current broadband environment in Dakota County. The outcome of the project is expected to inform future operational and policy decisions of the Dakota Broadband Board regarding the use of its broadband fiber network.

The purpose of this Request for Proposals (RFP) is to identify qualified vendors who are interested in assisting the DBB in achieving the anticipated outcome. The DBB expects this process will include follow-up interviews with select vendors to answer any questions raised by DBB members, and obtain additional insight regarding their proposed approach.

 

OPPORTUNITY: Community Networks looking for Communities Looking for Low-Cost, Low-Hassle Broadband Financing: We Want to Hear From You

From the Institute for Local Self Reliance

If you’re a community considering building or partnering to build publicly owned broadband infrastructure in the near future, we want to hear from you.

Connect Humanity – an organization focused on making sure everyone has fast, affordable, and reliable Internet access – may be able to help speed the financing of community networks, including with some capacity to offer non-traditional borrowing or below-market rates. What is their approach?

Learn more about the opportunity!

Be Prepared for Opportunity!

Blandin Foundation is seeking communities/counties to participate in their Community Broadband Resources: Accelerate! program beginning in September.  Blandin decided to launch a 2nd cohort of communities due to the enthusiastic response from our first cohort that completed the program in June.  We hope to have a group of 3 – 5 communities participating as a cohort and would like to start in late September as soon as we have our community cohort on board.

In essence, we ask that each community form a steering team with at least 8 people.  In our first cohort, teams ranged from 8 – 16 members that committed to participating in weekly meetings, each Friday morning from 9 – 11 am.  We do not keep attendance and ask only that people make a good faith commitment.

Each week has a theme.    From 9-10, all of the communities meet together to: 1) learn from experts; 2) hear from Blandin members; 3) learn from each other.  The second hour is devoted to each community’s steering team meeting where the teams plan their upcoming work.  We also ask that members watch an archived video webinar some time during the week on that week’s topic.

Through the process, each community will conduct a community survey using a standardized survey.  MN Extension will assist on data reporting.  In our last cohort, communities combined online and paper surveys.  Local communities are responsible for doing any data entry with the paper surveys and for any mailing or publicity costs.  In the first cohort, we used the statewide speed test web site to gather that data.  I am uncertain as to the availability of that site for our purposes.

Provider interviews are also a part of the process.  Several community-friendly providers participated on community teams in the first cohort.

We spend quite a bit of time on mapping, public private partnerships, public finance, etc.

The last two weeks of the program are devoted to the creation of a community broadband plan where Blandin staff works with each community to finalize their plan and a presentation that they can bring back to local elected officials, community groups and members, and broadband providers.

The application process is quite easy and informal.  The list of steering team members is the key element.

If you would like to know more, contact Bill Coleman at 651-491-2551 or bill@communitytechnologyadvisors.com.  He would be happy to do a quick webinar to ensure there is clear understanding of the process.

OPPORTUNITY: Submit Your Video for Digital Inclusion Week 2021!

I have a double ask here for folks in Minnesota. First – it would be amazing to see a lot of Minnesota folks submit items to NDIA for Digital Inclusion Week. If you do submit, please consider sharing it with Blandin Foundation too and we’ll work to find a way to fit it into the Fall Conference

Digital Inclusion Week 2021 (Oct 4-8) is getting closer and we’re ready to feature YOU in our new video. See instructions below and submit by August 24.

  1. Prepare to shoot your video or take a selfie
  • Find a friend to help record
  • Hold your phone in landscape mode
  • Don’t stand too far from the camera because it will affect the sound quality (6 feet or closer)
  • Think about your background — Is there somewhere that represents your city, town, or organization? We’d love to see your setting!
  • Print and hold up a sign and take a selfie OR a video: Create a 10-15 second video
  1. Use the prompts to shoot your video – Introduce yourself and say one of the phrases below or make your own 10-15 second video

Digital empowerment means ______.

Digital empowerment means internet for all

Digital empowerment means access to tech training

Digital empowerments means access to devices

Digital empowerment is inclusive

We need digital equity NOW

I’m with ______ and we’re creating pathways to digital empowerment.

  1. Share the video (or selfie) with me by Aug. 24 – drop it in our Google Drive folder here and we’ll include it in our official Digital Inclusion Week 2021 video and share and tag you/your org on social media

Please name the file with your org name so we can tag you!

OPPORTUNITY: Broadband grants in St. Louis County

St. Louis County has two types of grants available right now. And a webinar for more info on one Aug 12…

Broadband Planning Grant

The purpose of the program is to assist communities with planning for and securing funds for broadband infrastructure in unserved or underserved areas of St. Louis County. Selected applicants will be awarded up to $25,000 and requires a 1:1 financial match. Eligible project costs are consulting costs and services, grant writing, personnel costs, surveys, and similar costs associated with planning.
Eligible Applicants: Cities, townships, tribal units, and non-profits located within St. Louis County.
Application Period: Friday, July 30 (8:00 am) – Friday, September 17, 2021 (4:30 pm).
Application: ApplicationW-9 Form
Guidelines and Maps: GuidelinesUnserved and Underserved Map
Contact: Brad Gustafson, 218-742-9563,

Broadband Infrastructure Grant

The purpose of the program is to assist communities with financing broadband infrastructure in unserved or underserved areas of St. Louis County. Selected applicants will be awarded up to $400,000 and requires a 1:1 financial match. Eligible project costs are architectural and engineering fees, consulting costs and services, personnel costs, surveys, construction costs, broadband equipment, and similar costs associated with broadband infrastructure construction.
Eligible Applicants: Cities, townships, tribal units, and non-profits located within St. Louis County. Private businesses are eligible to apply with the support and on behalf of government entities and non-profit organizations. Multi-organization collaborations are encouraged.
Application Period: All eligible applications will be reviewed on an on-going basis subject to grant funding availability.
Information Session: Thursday, August 12, 2021, from 9:00 am – 10:00 am (via Webex).
Application: ApplicationW-9 Form
Contact: Brad Gustafson, 218-742-9563,

OPPORTUNITY: NTIA opens Applications for $268 Million Connecting Minority Communities Pilot Program

From BroadbandUSA…

The Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) today released a Notice of Funding Opportunity for the Connecting Minority Communities Pilot Program, which will direct $268 million for expanding broadband access and connectivity to eligible Historically Black Colleges or Universities (HBCUs), Tribal Colleges or Universities (TCUs), minority-serving institutions (MSIs), and consortia led by an HBCU, TCU, or MSI that also include a minority business enterprise or tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization.

“Communities of color have faced systemic barriers to affordable broadband access since the beginning of the digital age,” said U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina M. Raimondo. “The investments we make as part of the Connecting Minority Communities Pilot Program will help communities that are struggling with access, adoption and connectivity, and will inform our path forward as we seek to finally close the digital divide across the country.”

The Connecting Minority Communities Pilot Program was established by the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021. Grants will be distributed to help HBCUs, TCUs and MSIs purchase broadband service or equipment, hire IT personnel, operate a minority business enterprise or a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization, and facilitate educational instruction, including remote instruction.

“NTIA knows how crucial colleges, universities and other community institutions can be when it comes to reaching vulnerable citizens and making a lasting impact,” said Acting NTIA Administrator Evelyn Remaley. “We look forward to working with Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Tribal Colleges or Universities, and minority-serving institutions to advance our shared goal of a fully connected nation.”

The Notice of Funding Opportunity published today on grants.gov outlines the requirements for grant applications and other information about the program. Completed applications must be received by grants.gov no later than 11:59 p.m. EST on Dec. 1, 2021. In June, NTIA published the Final Rule for the program, which included programmatic scope, general guidelines, and described the agency’s method to determine applicant eligibility and identify which eligible recipients have the greatest unmet financial needs.

NTIA is holding a series of webinars to further inform the public. The next Connecting Minority Communities webinars will be held on August 18 and 19.

OPPORTUNITY: Open positions in MN State Boards, Councils and Committees

There were a few positions that I thought might be of interest to readers

Launch Minnesota
Vacancies: 2 Seats — Higher Education or Government Representative (Greater Minnesota or Metro Area)
Vacancies: 8 Seats — Private Business Representative (Entrepreneurs, large businesses, industry organizations, investors, and private small business assistance providers, Greater Minnesota or Metro Area)

Minnesota E-health Advisory Committee
Vacancies: 2 Seats — Academics and Research
Vacancies: 2 Seats — Experts in Quality Improvement and Clinical Guideline Development

OPPORTUNITY: RFQ Posting Fiber Optic Network – Cedar Nicols Trailhead

Dakota County has a broadband deployment opportunity for someone…

Fiber Optic Network – Cedar Nicols Trailhead

​Dakota County is seeking bids from qualified contractors to complete work on the fiber optic network near ​Cedar Nicols Trailhead.

Bids due: Aug. 30 at 2 p.m.

Mail bids to:
Dakota County Information Technology Department
Attention: Dan Ferber
1590 Highway 55
Hastings, MN 55033

Mandatory pre-bid meeting:
Aug. 19 at 10 a.m.
Please contact Roni Woods at 763-543-2673 or rwoods@logis.org.

RFB – Fiber Optic Network – Cedar Nicols Trailhead
Project Design
Letter to Union Pacific Railroad Com​pany

OPPORTUNITY: Statewide Telecommuting Survey from UMN Extension

University of Minnesota is working on research related to telecommuting. Their work is important in helping us understand what we need and want in Minnesota to make best use of broadband. Help them help all of us by taking their survey…

“Have you wondered about Minnesota employers’ and workers’ experience of telecommuting before, during, and after the COVID-19 pandemic? The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) is wondering the same, which is why MnDOT is partnering with the University of Minnesota Tourism Center on a research project to find out! And now, the project needs your help.

Make your and your organization’s experience count by completing the worker survey and the employer survey. Forward the survey links to your colleagues and friends, so their voices can be heard, too! All these contributions are vital to the project and much appreciated.