Global Policy Roadmap: next level policy topics

I recently ran across a site that is new to me – the Global Policy Roadmap

Through the Alliance, global experts from government, private-sector partners and civil society, are compiling and analyzing policies from around the world to identify model policies for successful, ethical smart cities.

Policies were prioritized on the basis of two main conditions:

  • that they are established as good practice based on considerable experience in leading cities from multiple geographies;

  • that they are foundational to building smart cities, and not prescriptive of the technologies, applications or outcomes.

Each model policy has been developed by a select task force of experts, consulting widely with stakeholders. All cities are different and these model policies should not be adopted without accounting for these differences. Nonetheless the roadmap provides a baseline for cities to use for policy development, and a means of identifying gaps in existing city policies.

The Alliance will build on this roadmap over time, and we invite partners, cities and experts to get involved by submitting supporting evidence, joining our working group or joining our pioneer programme.

The policies are much less about deployment than use and management. High level topics include:

  • Equity, Inclusivity and Social Impact
  • Openness and Interoperability
  • Security and Resilience
  • Operational and Financial Sustainability
  • Privacy and Transparency

These topics are not the top of the pops – they are deep cuts but I’d encourage at least a few policymakers take on looking at what folks are doing in other areas to learn the best practices and be aware of unintended consequences.

Discouraging commentary on progress of the National Broadband Plan

Tech Dirt’s Christopher Terry offers a discouraging look at the 2010 National Broadband Plan for Benton

Nov 18th, 2020 marked 3900 days since the Federal Communications Commission launched its heavily-hyped “National Broadband Plan.” 400 days ago, I penned an op-ed for the Benton Institute which assessed how the FCC had been unable to achieve any of the benchmarks or meet any of the six stated goals of the plan. You probably won’t be surprised to hear that another year didn’t fix very much of the shortcomings I identified then. …

While we can debate metrics when assessing successes and failures of the FCC’s policymaking, the events of the last eight months have put a spotlight on how important the FCC’s failure to achieve its goals has been. As millions of Americans were forced to go virtual for work and school the clear requirement for affordable universal broadband access has never been clearer.

His point is clear – we can debate about the numbers related to broadband accomplishments but the proof is on the frontlines. Did you have enough broadband to do the things you needed and wanted to do during the pandemic? Did you neighbors, friends cousins and clients? Did you lose your job because you couldn’t get online? Did you start a new business because you could? How are your kids accessing school? Are you all able to get to the tele-mental-health sessions you need?

I spoke to several Minnesota Counties about the role of broadband in their COVID plans. Broadband was a make or break and I heard all sorts of answers from counties where schools had to make paper packets for some students to offset lack of access and from counties that were able to move all public meetings online encouraging greater civic engagement. Whole communities are living different lives based on their broadband access.

MN Broadband Coalition meeting notes – plans moving forward

The MN Rural Broadband Coalition met today to talk about plans moving forward. They did a nice job of getting feedback from all attendees. The notes I’m sharing are more of a glimpse than record of the meeting but I thought there might be potential members who wanted to know more about the organization. I’ve peppers screenshots of PPT slides with notes from the discussion:

What would be lost without the coalition?

  • Unified message – particularly important for funding asks, helps smaller more niche organizations have a voice at the capitol
  • Without the coalition we would have different positions/advocacy by the some of the broadband organizations. B2B program would be in jeopardy.
  • Unified voice at the legislature on broadband
  • Lobbyist to represent collective
  • Harder to create a cohesive statewide plan. Carriers would be there at the table during the final discussions when their interests may not align with the coalition.
  • We would lose a unified, bipartisan, rural voice at the legislature to ensure continued funding for broadband grants and the OBD.
  • Prior to the Coalition, there were advocacy efforts, the Coalition provided true lobbying efforts.
  • Border to border “real” broadband. Real = Future proof / expandable broadband deployment
  • It’s not only about investment…. It is also about training
  • Affordability – private? Public?

New Mission/Vision?

  • All Minnesotans have access to quality, affordable broadband that meets their needs today and into the future.
  • Fund long-term as a priority, necessity,  & essential infrastructure — treat it like rural electrification was NEEDS TO TO PART OF BASE BUDGET
  • Minnesota will have adequate funding and support for  broadband to allow participation in all online activities now and in the future.

What are the ESSENTIAL elements that will help us reach our desired future?

  • Funding the coalition is essential
    • Current funding model doesn’t allow us to do that adequately
      • Allows us to pay for a lobbyist
  • Necessary infrastructure for broadband
    • We need funding but what is it we are paying for?
    • Roadmap of what would work
    • Incentives to private providers and/or government-run utilities

What, if any, elements may fall outside the scope of what we do?

  • The coalition doesn’t want an ownership stake in the physical infrastructure nor do we intend to profit from our work
  • Affordability of services
    • At the household level vs. at the provider level
  • Defining infrastructure

Who benefits most from our efforts? (Our PRIMARY beneficiary)

  • Those who have and will become connected through the broadband grant program

Schools are getting innovative with bringing broadband to students who need it.

Michael Calabrese and Amir Nasr at New America look at schools in the pandemic. They have been hard hit with need and many have gotten innovative about how to get broadband to the students who need it to ensure a more equitable experience for all

The problem…

The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed deep inequities in the United States, and the lack of high-speed broadband access has been front-and-center because this public health crisis has required a large share of the population to work and learn from home. Among those most adversely impacted have been America’s students. The pandemic resulted in the near total shutdown of schools last spring, impacting 55.1 million students at 124,000 U.S. public and private schools.1 Schools shifted to remote learning almost overnight. The prevalence of remote learning continued into the 2020–2021 school year, with only 24 percent of school districts returning to in-person instruction full-time.

Exacerbating the problem…

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has both the authority and the resources to mitigate the homework gap and yet it has refused to act. The FCC oversees the Universal Service Fund, which spends billions of dollars each year on several programs with the statutory goal of connecting all Americans to advanced communications, including specifically for education.

The homegrown solutions…

Thankfully, hundreds of school districts around the country have not waited for the FCC to grant them more E-Rate funding or flexibility to allocate E-Rate funds to meet this challenge. This report profiles many different examples of school-sponsored broadband networks that have been built and deployed for educational purposes both during the COVID-19 pandemic and in the years prior.

An outline of the solutions they detail…

This report profiles many different examples of school-sponsored broadband networks that have been built and deployed for educational purposes both during the COVID-19 pandemic and in the years prior. In Part II, we profile more than a dozen school districts that have pioneered a range of innovative approaches to connecting students lacking adequate internet access at home. We start with three school districts in Iowa and California that have partnered with their municipality to build out community Wi-Fi networks that connect low-income students directly to the school’s network. The next subsection profiles school districts in Texas, California, and other states that are taking advantage of novel spectrum sharing frameworks, such as the new Citizens Broadband Radio Service in the 3.5 GHz band, to build out private LTE mobile networks that connect students at home, and that are far more financially sustainable longer term than buying subscriptions from mobile cellular providers.

A third subsection describes efforts in Virginia and Colorado to extend the reach of school networks directly to students at home, or to community hotspots closer to their homes, using the free unlicensed spectrum known as “TV white spaces” (TVWS). TVWS refers to the locally-vacant television channels that can be used to transmit internet access over very long distances. Finally, a fourth subsection highlights districts that are outfitting school buses as Wi-Fi hotspots and parking them strategically in neighborhoods where clusters of students lack broadband at home. Some districts are locating internet hotspots in community centers, public housing, or other more permanent locations. Libraries, which are also eligible for E-Rate funding, have also been stepping up by lending out Wi-Fi hotspots and amplifying their Wi-Fi so that students and other patrons can get online even when the building is closed.

How can technology ease COVID inequities? Answers from the field

Colin Rhinesmith and Susan Kennedy at the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society have been looking at the Impacts of COVID-19 on Digital Equity Ecosystems. They surveyed people in the field of digital inclusion to see what was happening and what would be helpful in the future.

What are the people who are working on digital inclusion experiencing…

  • Digital inclusion coalitions established before the pandemic have responded to COVID-19 by focusing their efforts on information and resource sharing, networking, data collection, raising awareness about digital inequality, and developing new tactics to promote digital equity.
  • The pandemic has introduced several new challenges for digital inclusion coalitions and has magnified a number of existing challenges.
  • Digital inclusion coalitions are finding ways to creatively solve problems to address their communities’ digital needs.
  • Cities, counties, states, and national organizations have also played key roles in supporting local digital equity ecosystems.

What would help make inclusion easier…

  • Make broadband affordable for low-income communities of color.
  • Support second chances for economic success through digital literacy programs.
  • Ensure care workers receive training and support to help promote digital and racial equity.
  • Make federal funding opportunities available for digital inclusion organizations.

Sen. Smith says we need to expand telehealth

Axios reports

The expansion in telehealth services to address the coronavirus pandemic needs to continue, Sen. Tina Smith (D-Minn.) said on Friday at a virtual Axios event.

Specifically what she said…

Patients and providers have described telehealth as a lifeline, Smith said, especially in the need for mental health care, which has exploded during the pandemic.

  • Telehealth offers an avenue for addressing the uptick in depression, anxiety and suicidal ideation, “not as a complete substitution for in-person care but as a way of making care more accessible.”

  • The ability to speak with providers in the privacy of one’s own home especially helps those struggling with the stigma around mental health care, according to Smith.

  • Innovation in telehealth must continue after the pandemic ends, and “what we need to make sure is that those higher reimbursement rates on par with a personal visit don’t go away,” Smith said.

FCC broadband stats are out (Form 477) – measuring speeds from 10/1 to 250/25

The FCC releases info on the recent broadband data (Dec 31, 2019)…

The Federal Communications Commission’s Office of Economics and Analytics today released data showing that the digital divide is closing.  At the end of 2019, the number of Americans living in areas without access to terrestrial fixed broadband with speeds of at least 25/3 Mbps—the Commission’s benchmark for high-speed broadband—fell to 14.5 million, a 46% decrease from the end of 2016.  Services at higher speeds saw even more significant deployment, with the number of Americans living in areas without broadband speeds of at least 250/25 Mbps falling by 77% since the end of 2016.  During that three-year period, the number of rural Americans living in areas with 250/25 Mbps broadband service increased by 268%.

And a little more info…

The updated broadband deployment data, based on the FCC’s Form 477 filings, includes fixed terrestrial (including fixed wireless) and mobile broadband deployment at speeds ranging from 10/1 Mbps to 250/25 Mbps. Fixed broadband deployment data are available at and can be viewed on the National Broadband Map at  Mobile deployment data are available at  The Commission will continue its efforts to ensure that all Americans have access to high-quality broadband.

It’s interesting to look at the range of speeds they test from 10/1 to 250/25. First, the range is huge. It’s mind boggling to think that we are calling both 10/1 and 250/25 broadband. I guess we could make the case that they are no longer calling 10/1 broadband but measuring indicates that it’s still on the radar. Second, the upload is 10 percent of the download. That difference seems too great, especially since I often hear that download is consumption and upload is production. I think we are especially seeing this during the pandemic as families are trying to support multiple workers and learners from home.

Broadband policy at the federal level – ideas maybe in limbo

For two days, it’s been pretty quiet on the broadband front in Minnesota. Like a parent of a toddler, I both enjoy the quiet and wonder what’s happening in the next room. From the view in MN, the next room is probably writing up the MN Broadband Task Force report. No probably about it, I’m part of the team and it’s happening. No more to report on that then I did after the Task Force meeting on Tuesday.

It’s the federal stuff that feels up in the air – but then isn’t everything during this administration transition or at least in the ante chamber waiting for transition. It looks like folks are trying to get broadband policy makers to tread water for a while…

E&C Leaders demand Trump FCC and FTC stop work on controversial items in light of election results
“With the results of the 2020 presidential election now apparent, leadership of the FTC will undoubtedly be changing,” Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) and Consumer Protection and Commerce Subcommittee Chair Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) wrote in a letter to the FTC.  “As a traditional part of the transfer of power — and as part of our oversight responsibilities — we strongly urge the agency to only pursue consensus and administrative matters that are non-partisan for the remainder of your tenure.”

FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel and FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks supported their recommendations.

Time will tell how that works; otherwise looks like Biden has pulled together a transition team.

Broadband is powerful civic tool – for those with access

Francella Ochillo posts in Tech Dirt about the power of a global network…

The internet has increasingly become the public square just as high-speed connectivity has become the lifeblood of our economy. In a post-COVID landscape, when Americans need broadband to work and learn from home and medical attention requires making an appointment online, access impacts our quality of life. It also determines who and how households will recover from the pandemic and its economic fallout.

What’s more, the internet has introduced once unimaginable possibilities for the most disenfranchised voices among us. Standing Rock. Flint. Minneapolis. These movements are a part of our lexicon, in part, because organizers had access to a universal platform, then dared the nation to collectively say her name – equality.

And the barrier that is keeping too many people from fully benefitting from that network…

It is hard to argue with the facts. While remote learning mandates remain in place, six in ten low-income students have to attend online classes via cell phone or search for a public WiFi access point, while others have simply disappeared from their class rosters because they do not have a device to get online. Approximately half of Americans living on Tribal lands and one-third of those living in rural areas still do not have reliable connections. Their job opportunities, online businesses, and remote access to health care have suffered accordingly.

Roughly one-third of African American and Hispanic households struggle with digital access, adoption, and literacy. Deutsche Bank estimates that “76% of Blacks and 62% of Hispanics could get shut out or be underprepared for 86% of jobs in the US by 2045.” Meanwhile, over forty percent of adults at or below the poverty line do not have reliable broadband of any kind.

And a call to governments to do better…

Since the National Broadband Plan was introduced in 2010, we have learned that when the market rewards providers with profits and control, they will come. However, relying on market forces alone cannot ensure that every community has access to broadband, a vital public good as important as electricity or clean water.

Federal policy designed to support broadband deployment strategies were based on the assumption that local and state entities would carry the mantle on increasing adoption. But, particularly in the wake of COVID-19, local and state governments are strapped for resources. Even if they are able to scrape together investments for digital infrastructure and adoption programs, few have adequate resources to do both well.

The digital divide has been relentless and unforgiving in the most under resourced communities, which have concurrently had to combat the threats from the COVID-19 pandemic, economic instability, and food insecurity. Ironically, being able to get online remains most elusive for those in the greatest need of digital pathways out of poverty.

EVENT Nov 10: MN Broadband Task Force – agenda, new member & letter from Mayors

First – the agenda for tomorrow…

Governor’s Task Force on Broadband
November 10, 2020
9:45 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
Virtual Meeting will use the Microsoft Teams platform:
Microsoft Teams meeting
Join on your computer or mobile app
Click here to join the meeting
Or call in (audio only)
+1 763-317-4323,,706772572#   United States, Plymouth
Phone Conference ID: 706 772 572#

9:45 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.                  Welcome, Introductions, Meeting Overview
10:00 a.m. – 10:30 a.m.                Gov. Tim Walz conversation with the Task Force
10:30 a.m. – 11:15 a.m.                Economic Development and Digital Inclusion Subgroup – report content and recommendations
11:15 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.                Barriers and Technology Subgroup – report content and recommendations
12:00 p.m. — 12:30 p.m.               Break for Lunch
12:30 p.m. – 12:45 p.m.                Public Comment

  • Duluth Mayor Emily Larson discussing the Minnesota Mayors Together letter
  • Other public comment

12:45 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.                  Minnesota Model Subgroup – report content and recommendations
1:30 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.                     Other Business, Next Steps, Wrap-up

One of the things they will be discussing is a letter from a group called Mayors Together that asks the Task to remember a few things with the recommendations…

We are writing to urge the task force, as it finalizes its report to the Legislature, to make two
clear recommendations:
• The first of these is speed. The 2026 goal of 100 Mbsp download and 20 Mbsp upload, while it may have seemed aggressive when it was adopted, now looks somewhat
modest. Why not recommend what the Border-to-Border grant has enabled in some areas of the state: 100 and 100?
• Second, we would urge the task force to tell legislators that this is an ongoing challenge, that having good access and speed is vital to all Minnesotans. As such, this investment should be a regular and recurring feature of the state’s operating budget. So, we would ask you to say that the Legislature consider the $35-50 million as an annual expenditure – for many years.

Finally, they will be welcoming the newest member of the MN Broadband Task Force…

Yvonne Cariveau is the Director of the Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship in the College of

Business at Minnesota State University, Mankato. Dr. Cariveau is also Principal owner and President of

Internet Connections/VoyageurWeb, a company providing web site hosting, custom programming and

website accessibility testing services. She received her Doctor of Philosophy in Marketing from the

University of Minnesota, Carlson School of Management. She resides in Mankato, MN.

Yvonne will be filling the seat vacated by Shannon Heim.

FCC opens Connected Care Pilot Application: funding for low-income and vets

The FCC provides more information on their Pilot Program, which will provide up to $100 million from the Universal Service Fund over a three-year period to support the provision of connected care services, with an emphasis on supporting these services for low-income Americans and veterans….

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) today announced that the Connected Care Pilot Program application window will open on November 6 at 12:00 p.m. ET and will remain open for 30 days through December 7, 2020, at 11:59 p.m. ET.  The Public Notice also provides additional guidance concerning the application submission process, prerequisites for the submission of an application, and provides examples of services eligible for support.  The Pilot Program will provide up to $100 million from the Universal Service Fund over a three-year period to support the provision of connected care services.

“In the past year, connectivity has become an increasingly critical component of delivering health care services in our country,” said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai.  “Spearheaded by Commissioner Carr, our Connected Care Pilot Program explores how universal service support can provide next-level health care to our nation’s most vulnerable populations, including low-income Americans and veterans.  With the opening of this application window, the FCC affirms its commitment to driving the future of health care delivery and supporting innovative pilot projects across the country.”

“I want to thank Chairman Pai for the chance to lead the FCC’s work on this telehealth initiative—one that will improve patient outcomes and drive down the costs of care for so many Americans,” said FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr.

The Commission adopted rules for the Connected Care Pilot Program on March 31, 2020.  The Connected Care Pilot Program is open to nonprofit and public eligible health care providers, located anywhere in the country.  Specifically, the Pilot Program will use Universal Service Fund monies to help defray the costs of connected care services for eligible health care providers, providing support for 85% of the cost of eligible services and network equipment, which include: (1) patient broadband Internet access services; (2) health care provider broadband data connections; (3) other connected care information services; and (4) certain network equipment.  The Pilot Program will not provide funding for end-user devices.

On September 3, 2020, the FCC issued a Public Notice with guidance on program eligibility and information that applicants will be required to submit as part of their applications.  An eligibility determination is required for each health care provider site that will be included in an application for the Pilot Program.  Health care provider sites that the Universal Service Administrative Company has already deemed eligible to participate in the FCC’s Rural Health Care Program or COVID-19 Telehealth Program may rely on that eligibility determination for the Pilot Program.

The Commission will accept applications for the Pilot Program through an online application system available on the Universal Service Administrative Company’s website beginning Friday, November 6, 2020 at 12:00 p.m. ET.  After the close of the application window, the Commission will make timely filed applications available in the Commission’s Electronic Comment Filing System (ECFS) under Docket No. WC 18-213.

For further information regarding today’s Public Notice, email Additional information and updates will be posted on the Connected Care Pilot Program web page.

MN Rural Broadband Coalition: AARP Minnesota Partners with MN Speed Test Initiative

From the MN Rural Broadband Coalition…

We would like to inform you about the recent work that the MN Speed Test Initiative has been doing in partnership with AARP Minnesota. AARP is fighting for Minnesotans to have access to affordable and reliable high-speed internet in the communities where they live. For too many Americans, the high-speed internet they need in order to access opportunities and succeed in today’s economy is not available where they live—and this holds them back.
As you may already know, our speed testing results have risen dramatically during the month of October. This is a direct result of the roll out of AARP’s social media, email, and news media strategy this month.
AARP generously offered several media spots for the Coalition to promote the speed test. A radio and print piece was published by Public News Service on October 7. KMOJ community radio in Minneapolis recorded and aired an interview about the speed test on October 10 during their morning show. Finally, KARE 11-TV conducted a lengthy interview that aired on October 12 during the 4:00pm news. This interview generated so much traffic to our site that the Coalition’s website crashed for a few minutes after the segment aired. We generated over 3,000 speed tests taken in one day as a result.
In addition to news media outreach, AARP has also been promoting the speed test on their social media channels. They have written and posted a blog entry on their website. They have also sent out an email blast to every AARP member in Minnesota.
We encourage you to sign up for AARP MN’s upcoming “Building Great Places for People of All Ages” conference. One item they will be reviewing is progress from the Governor’s Council on an Age-Friendly Minnesota, which has made access to broadband a major recommendation. The conference is free and virtual and runs from November 17-18.
Again, we want to thank AARP MN and their team for their generous contribution of time and resources to the speed test initiative. Partnerships like this are exactly the kind that will make our work a success.

Telederm made more popular during pandemic, needs policy changes to continue post pandemic

Healio reports

“The COVID-19 pandemic has kind of forced our hand to accelerate the use of telehealth, or ‘telederm’ as we nickname it in dermatology,” Dawn Marie R. Davis, MD, professor of dermatology and pediatrics at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, said. “It’s a dyad, and both parties, the provider or organization and the patients, have to be comfortable with using telehealth platforms.”

A majority of those surveyed had tried and liked it…

A July survey from Harmony Healthcare of more than 2,000 Americans found the majority to believe telehealth provides not only safety in this time of a global medical crisis, but also convenience for those seeking care.

Forty-nine percent of respondents said they had used telehealth before COVID-19, with 67% using it since COVID-19.

The top reason for using telehealth was convenience, cited by 63% of respondents. Safety and avoiding virus exposure were cited by 59% and flexibility by 46%.

But the way to move forward is in policy, not medicine not even technology at this point…

Billing telemedicine visits has historically been a major obstacle. Previously there were few reimbursement codes for most forms of telehealth, but in March, when the pandemic shut down many practices, exceptions were made to allow for it.

CMS broadened access to telehealth with a temporary emergency waiver allowing payment for services conducted electronically during the pandemic, and many insurance companies have followed suit.

“The limitation with telemedicine wasn’t that we didn’t know how to use it or that it wasn’t part of our lexicon. The limitation was that we couldn’t do it because it wasn’t reimbursable,” Friedman said. “When the federal waivers went into effect and all of a sudden we have a handy little modifier on our billing, we could now do telemedicine for pretty much everyone.”

The American Academy of Dermatology has since released guidelines on telemedicine that explain the CMS guidance and inform dermatologists of the best ways to proceed with telehealth in their practices. The academy’s teledermatology toolkit includes a downloadable flowchart to keep track of the correct codes, as well as a downloadable coding guide.

While the waivers have been extended to the end of 2020, it is still a question if telehealth coding will be as easily accessible as the pandemic becomes less severe.

“The biggest issues are, ‘Will these visits be reimbursed? Will we lose money doing telehealth?’ and we just don’t know yet,” Friedman asked.

The continuation of telehealth codes and reimbursement will be the only way to provide the option for patients.

Incumbent Carlton County Board of Commissioners regain seats – recognize importance of broadband

Duluth News Tribune reports on the Carlton County Board of Commissioners results…

The incumbents in Districts 1 and 5 retained their seats on the board. …

In District 1, incumbent Dick Brenner kept the seat he’s held for 28 years, while Gary Peterson was reelected to his District 5 seat.

Both recognize that broadband is a top priority…

The COVID-19 pandemic, the Carlton County Jail replacement project and broadband were among the big issues Brenner said the county will have to tackle in the future.

More details….

Peterson said the biggest issues currently facing Carlton County are the jail project, broadband access and road replacement.

“Obviously we’re concerned about broadband, and I think the big thing is to work with our federal and state people and all of us working together to see if we can come up with some solutions,” he said.

Rep Hamilton (MN House 22B) would invest in broadband

In a candidate highlight, the Redwood Falls Gazette notes that Ron Hamilton (Minnesota House 22B) plans to invest in broadband…

How as a state representative would you work to promote economic development?

When we invest in roads and bridges, broadband, and clean water, we can see the results. Just look to the expanded Highway 60 and the implementation of the Lewis and Clark Rural Water System for signs of new economic development resulting from those projects. For economic development to improve, businesses must have access to necessary infrastructure. But it’s also important to remember that state government needs to get out of the way and not regulate them out of business.