State of Broadband in US (Q4, 2020): tracking access and affordability

Broadband Now Research recently released their latest report on broadband access in the US. I am most interested in the access versus affordable comparison at speeds of 25/3 and 100/25. They define affordable as $60/month or less.

Here’s how Minnesota sits:

  • 92.36 percent access to 25/3
    70.08 percent access to affordable 25/3
  • 68.63 percent access to 100/25
    21.1 percent access to affordable 100/25

You can get an updated and more detailed version of the report from the Broadband Now website. (They get their data by combining government and private sources.

Chattanooga sees $2.69 billion in community benefit over 10 years from Gig Network

EPB reports

Newly-released, independent research documents $2.69 billion in community benefit during the first ten years since EPB of Chattanooga built America’s first Gig-speed community-wide network and used it to establish the nation’s most advanced smart grid power distribution system.

Here’s how they come up with that number…

Key Community Benefits from Chattanooga’s Advanced Infrastructure:

  • Job creation and retention: The fiber optic infrastructure directly supported the creation and retention of 9,516 jobs which is about 40% of all jobs created in Hamilton County during the study period.
  • Lower unemployment rate: According to the study, since Chattanooga’s fiber optic network was deployed, it has helped keep the local unemployment rate lower. This effect has been magnified since the outset of the COVID crisis when fiber optics helped many businesses transition their employees to remote work very quickly. According to the latest available numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Hamilton County’s unemployment rate was 4.7% in November which is significantly lower than Tennessee’s rate (5.3%) and two percentage points lower than the U.S. unemployment rate (6.7%) for the same period.
  • Bridging the digital divide for education: Having Chattanooga’s fiber optic network in place allowed EPB to join with Hamilton County Schools and other local and state partners in launching HCS EdConnect, a fiber optic broadband internet service provided at no charge to economically challenged families with K-12 students. Designed to continue providing the service for at least 10 years, HCS EdConnect represents a lasting solution for bridging the digital divide among students. Currently more than 12,000 students have internet access to continue their studies from home through HCS EdConnect.
  • Reduced power outages: Related to the smart grid’s ability to quickly re-route power around storm damage and other problems, the study documents a 40-55% annual decrease in outage minutes providing EPB customers with an average of $26.6 million in savings each year by helping them avoid spoilage, lost productivity, and other negative impacts.
  • Decreased environmental damage: The smart grid has helped EPB decrease carbon emissions by 7,900 tons through demand management and reduced truck-miles.
  • $110 million in Smart City research: In 2014, the U.S. Department of Energy designated Chattanooga as a Smart Grid Living Laboratory. Since then, EPB has partnered with Oak Ridge National Laboratory and a range of other national and local research partners, like the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Center for Urban Informatics and Progress, to play a significant role in more than $110 million in Smart City Research.

It’s hard to put your arms around the benefits of a broadband network. How much do I save doing my banking online rather than drive to the building? I save time and gas. My work is entirely online – how much do I get paid. Just two examples. Now multiply that by households throughout a community and think about every occasion during the day you save/make time and money by going online. Ironically, this is easier to do during a pandemic and never have we missed going to the bank more – but you get what I’m saying.

It’s helpful to see how Chattanooga has done this and it’s amazing to see the results. Ten years gives enough time for the statistics to catch up to the street value.

Annual FCC Broadband Deployment Report – MN fares well for 25/3 speeds

The FCC has just released the latest edition of the Annual Broadband Deployment Report

The Federal Communications Commission today
released its annual Broadband Deployment Report, which shows that significant progress has been made to bridge the digital divide. For example, the gap between urban and rural Americans with access to 25/3 Mbps fixed broadband service has been nearly halved, falling from 30 percentage points at the end of 2016 to just 16 points at the end of 2019. Additionally, more than three-quarters of those Americans in areas newly served in 2019—nearly 3.7 million—live in rural areas, bringing the number of rural Americans in areas served by at least 25/3 Mbps broadband service to nearly 83%, up 15 points since 2016. The report showed an
overall decrease of more than 20% in the number of Americans without access to 25/3 Mbps broadband service since last year’s report, from more than 18.1 million at the end of 2018 to fewer than 14.5 million at the end of 2019.

The FCC has determined that they have done a good job…

Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 requires that the FCC determine annually whether advanced telecommunications capability is being deployed to all Americans “in a reasonable and timely fashion.” Given the compelling evidence before it, the 2021 report finds
for a third consecutive year that deployment is occurring in a reasonable and timely manner. Nonetheless, the Commission continues its work to close the digital divide with the upcoming 5G Fund auction and the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund Phase II auction.

Here’s the summary for Minnesota:

And a look at how those 25/3 numbers look when you add wireless coverage to the mix:

They have a lot of detailed national tables, I’m including a high level look…

And I’ve tried to pull out the Minnesota info. It’s nice to see that Minnesota is well above average for 25/3 but the Minnesota state goal is 100/20!

Deployment of Fixed Terrestrial Fixed 25/3 Mbps and Mobile 4G LTE with a Minimum Advertised Speed of 5/1 Mbps Services By State and County (December 31, 2019)[1]

State, County or County Equivalent Pop. Eval. % of Pop. with Fixed 25/
3 Mbps
% of Pop. with Mobile 5/
1 Mbps
% of Pop. with Fixed & Mobile Pop. Density Per Capita Income ($2018)
Minnesota 5,639,445 97.5% 100.0% 97.5% 70.8 $37,192
Aitkin County 15,886 72.2% 100.0% 72.2% 8.7 $27,646
Anoka County 356,909 99.2% 100.0% 99.2% 843.7 $35,806
Becker County 34,422 94.2% 100.0% 94.2% 26.2 $29,710
Beltrami County 47,182 99.3% 99.5% 98.8% 18.8 $24,781
Benton County 40,887 92.6% 100.0% 92.6% 100.1 $28,566
Big Stone County 4,991 93.5% 100.0% 93.5% 10.0 $30,489
Blue Earth County 67,650 99.2% 100.0% 99.2% 90.5 $28,824
Brown County 25,008 97.8% 100.0% 97.8% 40.9 $30,373
Carlton County 35,871 77.3% 100.0% 77.3% 41.6 $28,117
Carver County 105,081 99.9% 100.0% 99.9% 296.6 $45,637
Cass County 29,778 89.7% 100.0% 89.7% 14.7 $29,053
Chippewa County 11,800 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 20.3 $30,168
Chisago County 56,564 92.1% 100.0% 92.1% 136.3 $33,927
Clay County 64,221 98.5% 100.0% 98.5% 61.4 $29,631
Clearwater County 8,817 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 8.8 $26,173
Cook County 5,463 98.5% 92.9% 92.2% 3.8 $32,703
Cottonwood County 11,196 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 17.5 $27,209
Crow Wing County 65,055 95.1% 100.0% 95.1% 65.1 $30,900
Dakota County 429,016 99.9% 100.0% 99.9% 763.1 $40,441
Dodge County 20,932 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 47.7 $32,795
Douglas County 38,140 99.7% 100.0% 99.7% 59.8 $34,547
Faribault County 13,653 98.5% 100.0% 98.5% 19.2 $29,748
Fillmore County 21,067 96.6% 99.6% 96.2% 24.5 $29,440
Freeborn County 30,281 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 42.8 $28,459
Goodhue County 46,340 99.7% 100.0% 99.7% 61.2 $33,400
Grant County 5,972 99.0% 100.0% 99.0% 10.9 $31,940
Hennepin County 1,265,838 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 2,286.6 $43,976
Houston County 18,600 90.7% 99.7% 90.5% 33.7 $31,453
Hubbard County 21,491 98.1% 100.0% 98.1% 23.2 $29,312
Isanti County 40,591 81.3% 100.0% 81.3% 93.1 $32,008
Itasca County 45,130 94.4% 100.0% 94.4% 16.9 $28,636
Jackson County 9,846 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 14.0 $33,358
Kanabec County 16,334 63.2% 100.0% 63.2% 31.3 $27,331
Kandiyohi County 43,194 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 54.2 $30,217
Kittson County 4,298 71.8% 100.0% 71.8% 3.9 $29,946
Koochiching County 12,229 82.3% 100.0% 82.3% 3.9 $29,051
Lac qui Parle County 6,623 99.4% 100.0% 99.4% 8.7 $31,686
Lake County 10,641 91.7% 99.7% 91.6% 5.0 $33,602
Lake of the Woods County 3,740 60.7% 99.4% 60.7% 2.9 $26,526
Le Sueur County 28,871 99.7% 100.0% 99.7% 64.3 $32,120
Lincoln County 5,639 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 10.5 $28,504
Lyon County 25,474 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 35.6 $30,531
Mahnomen County 5,527 92.8% 100.0% 92.8% 9.9 $20,953
Marshall County 9,336 81.1% 100.0% 81.1% 5.3 $29,670
Martin County 19,683 99.4% 100.0% 99.4% 27.6 $31,091
McLeod County 35,893 98.4% 100.0% 98.4% 73.0 $31,723
Meeker County 23,222 96.5% 100.0% 96.5% 38.2 $31,819
Mille Lacs County 26,275 76.9% 100.0% 76.9% 45.9 $26,679
Morrison County 33,384 91.3% 100.0% 91.3% 29.7 $28,792
Mower County 40,061 99.9% 100.0% 99.9% 56.3 $29,116
Murray County 8,194 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 11.6 $31,768
Nicollet County 34,274 95.3% 100.0% 95.3% 76.4 $31,225
Nobles County 21,629 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 30.2 $25,554
Norman County 6,375 97.6% 100.0% 97.6% 7.3 $28,351
Olmsted County 158,280 99.9% 100.0% 99.9% 242.3 $39,667
Otter Tail County 58,746 98.7% 100.0% 98.7% 29.8 $30,846
Pennington County 14,119 98.7% 100.0% 98.7% 22.9 $30,625
Pine County 29,578 67.6% 100.0% 67.6% 21.0 $25,302
Pipestone County 9,123 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 19.6 $29,716
Polk County 31,364 99.5% 100.0% 99.5% 15.9 $28,856
Pope County 11,247 99.5% 100.0% 99.5% 16.8 $32,943
Ramsey County 550,321 99.9% 100.0% 99.9% 3,615.5 $34,049
Red Lake County 4,052 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 9.4 $29,731
Redwood County 15,170 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 17.3 $28,011
Renville County 14,548 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 14.8 $31,585
Rice County 66,963 99.0% 100.0% 99.0% 135.1 $29,767
Rock County 9,315 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 19.3 $30,544
Roseau County 15,164 78.9% 100.0% 78.9% 9.1 $28,049
Scott County 148,995 99.3% 100.0% 99.3% 418.0 $39,952
Sherburne County 97,231 94.0% 100.0% 94.0% 224.6 $34,013
Sibley County 14,865 99.4% 100.0% 99.4% 25.2 $30,977
St. Louis County 199,070 89.0% 99.9% 89.0% 31.9 $30,321
Stearns County 161,073 96.2% 100.0% 96.2% 119.9 $29,815
Steele County 36,649 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 85.3 $30,822
Stevens County 9,805 99.0% 100.0% 99.0% 17.4 $31,694
Swift County 9,266 99.9% 100.0% 99.9% 12.5 $30,208
Todd County 24,661 79.9% 100.0% 79.9% 26.1 $25,848
Traverse County 3,259 97.6% 100.0% 97.6% 5.7 $30,553
Wabasha County 21,627 99.4% 99.5% 98.9% 41.4 $33,664
Wadena County 13,682 97.1% 100.0% 97.1% 25.5 $24,864
Waseca County 18,612 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 44.0 $28,067
Washington County 262,419 98.3% 100.0% 98.3% 682.9 $43,789
Watonwan County 10,897 99.6% 100.0% 99.6% 25.1 $27,772
Wilkin County 6,207 99.6% 100.0% 99.6% 8.3 $32,066
Winona County 50,484 99.9% 99.6% 99.5% 80.6 $28,689
Wright County 138,370 96.2% 100.0% 96.2% 209.2 $34,325
Yellow Medicine County 9,709 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 12.8 $29,379

Deployment of Fixed Terrestrial Fixed 25/3 Mbps and Mobile 4G LTE with a Minimum Advertised Speed of 5/1 Mbps Services By State and County
Segmented by Urban and Rural Areas (December 31, 2019)
[1]

  Urban Areas Rural Areas
County or County Equivalent Pop. Eval. % of Pop. with Fixed 25/3 Mbps % of Pop. with Mobile 5/1 Mbps % of Pop. with Both Pop. Eval. % of Pop. with Fixed 25/3 Mbps % of Pop. with Mobile 5/1 Mbps % of Pop. with Both
Minnesota 4,128,809 99.8% 100.0% 99.8% 1,510,636 91.4% 99.9% 91.3%
Aitkin County 15,886 72.2% 100.0% 72.2%
Anoka County 304,638 99.7% 100.0% 99.7% 52,271 96.8% 100.0% 96.8%
Becker County 8,099 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 26,323 92.4% 100.0% 92.4%
Beltrami County 14,985 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 32,197 99.0% 99.3% 98.3%
Benton County 23,708 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 17,179 82.3% 100.0% 82.3%
Big Stone County 4,991 93.5% 100.0% 93.5%
Blue Earth County 48,100 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 19,550 97.3% 100.0% 97.3%
Brown County 15,947 99.0% 100.0% 99.0% 9,061 95.7% 100.0% 95.7%
Carlton County 15,761 97.6% 100.0% 97.6% 20,110 61.4% 100.0% 61.4%
Carver County 81,185 99.9% 100.0% 99.9% 23,896 99.6% 100.0% 99.6%
Cass County 29,778 89.7% 100.0% 89.7%
Chippewa County 5,681 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 6,119 100.0% 100.0% 100.0%
Chisago County 24,580 99.4% 100.0% 99.4% 31,984 86.5% 100.0% 86.5%
Clay County 44,115 99.1% 100.0% 99.1% 20,106 97.0% 100.0% 97.0%
Clearwater County 8,817 100.0% 100.0% 100.0%
Cook County 5,463 98.5% 92.9% 92.2%
Cottonwood County 3,993 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 7,203 100.0% 100.0% 100.0%
Crow Wing County 23,809 99.6% 100.0% 99.6% 41,246 92.5% 100.0% 92.5%
Dakota County 405,337 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 23,679 99.5% 100.0% 99.5%
Dodge County 9,876 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 11,056 100.0% 100.0% 100.0%
Douglas County 17,037 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 21,103 99.4% 100.0% 99.4%
Faribault County 2,785 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 10,868 98.1% 100.0% 98.1%
Fillmore County 1,396 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 19,671 96.4% 99.5% 95.9%
Freeborn County 16,945 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 13,336 100.0% 100.0% 100.0%
Goodhue County 24,222 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 22,118 99.4% 100.0% 99.4%
Grant County 5,972 99.0% 100.0% 99.0%
Hennepin County 1,234,251 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 31,587 99.8% 100.0% 99.8%
Houston County 7,834 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 10,766 84.0% 99.5% 83.6%
Hubbard County 3,429 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 18,062 97.7% 100.0% 97.7%
Isanti County 14,717 99.1% 100.0% 99.1% 25,874 71.2% 100.0% 71.2%
Itasca County 9,233 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 35,897 93.0% 100.0% 93.0%
Jackson County 2,745 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 7,101 100.0% 100.0% 100.0%
Kanabec County 3,351 96.8% 100.0% 96.8% 12,983 54.5% 100.0% 54.5%
Kandiyohi County 23,590 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 19,604 100.0% 100.0% 100.0%
Kittson County 4,298 71.8% 100.0% 71.8%
Koochiching County 6,379 99.1% 100.0% 99.1% 5,850 64.0% 100.0% 64.0%
Lac qui Parle County 6,623 99.4% 100.0% 99.4%
Lake County 3,522 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 7,119 87.7% 99.6% 87.5%
Lake of the Woods County 3,740 60.7% 99.4% 60.7%
Le Sueur County 10,583 99.9% 100.0% 99.9% 18,288 99.6% 100.0% 99.6%
Lincoln County 5,639 100.0% 100.0% 100.0%
Lyon County 12,829 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 12,645 100.0% 100.0% 100.0%
Mahnomen County 5,527 92.8% 100.0% 92.8%
Marshall County 9,336 81.1% 100.0% 81.1%
Martin County 8,763 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 10,920 98.9% 100.0% 98.9%
McLeod County 18,996 96.9% 100.0% 96.9% 16,897 100.0% 100.0% 100.0%
Meeker County 7,848 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 15,374 94.7% 100.0% 94.7%
Mille Lacs County 7,454 99.4% 100.0% 99.4% 18,821 68.0% 100.0% 68.0%
Morrison County 8,853 99.4% 100.0% 99.4% 24,531 88.4% 100.0% 88.4%
Mower County 25,277 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 14,784 99.8% 100.0% 99.8%
Murray County 8,194 100.0% 100.0% 100.0%
Nicollet County 24,434 96.1% 100.0% 96.1% 9,840 93.2% 100.0% 93.2%
Nobles County 12,281 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 9,348 100.0% 100.0% 100.0%
Norman County 6,375 97.6% 100.0% 97.6%
Olmsted County 127,419 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 30,861 99.6% 100.0% 99.6%
Otter Tail County 15,213 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 43,533 98.2% 100.0% 98.2%
Pennington County 8,835 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 5,284 96.6% 100.0% 96.6%
Pine County 3,091 96.7% 100.0% 96.7% 26,487 64.1% 100.0% 64.1%
Pipestone County 3,706 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 5,417 100.0% 100.0% 100.0%
Polk County 15,820 99.9% 100.0% 99.9% 15,544 99.0% 100.0% 99.0%
Pope County 11,247 99.5% 100.0% 99.5%
Ramsey County 549,150 99.9% 100.0% 99.9% 1,171 99.5% 100.0% 99.5%
Red Lake County 4,052 100.0% 100.0% 100.0%
Redwood County 4,260 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 10,910 100.0% 100.0% 100.0%
Renville County 14,548 100.0% 100.0% 100.0%
Rice County 48,679 98.6% 100.0% 98.6% 18,284 100.0% 100.0% 100.0%
Rock County 4,224 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 5,091 100.0% 100.0% 100.0%
Roseau County 2,424 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 12,740 74.9% 100.0% 74.9%
Scott County 121,055 99.7% 100.0% 99.7% 27,940 97.6% 100.0% 97.6%
Sherburne County 53,225 99.6% 100.0% 99.6% 44,006 87.4% 100.0% 87.4%
Sibley County 14,865 99.4% 100.0% 99.4%
St. Louis County 124,539 99.5% 100.0% 99.5% 74,531 71.6% 99.9% 71.5%
Stearns County 98,473 99.8% 100.0% 99.8% 62,600 90.7% 100.0% 90.7%
Steele County 25,120 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 11,529 100.0% 100.0% 100.0%
Stevens County 4,995 99.7% 100.0% 99.7% 4,810 98.3% 100.0% 98.3%
Swift County 2,818 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 6,448 99.8% 100.0% 99.8%
Todd County 4,876 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 19,785 74.9% 100.0% 74.9%
Traverse County 3,259 97.6% 100.0% 97.6%
Wabasha County 7,501 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 14,126 99.1% 99.3% 98.3%
Wadena County 4,363 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 9,319 95.8% 100.0% 95.8%
Waseca County 9,205 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 9,407 100.0% 100.0% 100.0%
Washington County 218,979 98.8% 100.0% 98.8% 43,440 95.8% 100.0% 95.8%
Watonwan County 4,276 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 6,621 99.4% 100.0% 99.4%
Wilkin County 2,899 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 3,308 99.3% 100.0% 99.3%
Winona County 33,069 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 17,415 99.7% 98.9% 98.6%
Wright County 90,431 99.8% 100.0% 99.8% 47,939 89.4% 100.0% 89.4%
Yellow Medicine County 1,596 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 8,113 100.0% 100.0% 100.0%

 

National Skills Coalition shares examples, data and meaning of digital skills in workers and the workplace

Thank you to Amanda Bergson-Shilcock from the National Skills Coalition for sharing her presentation, American Workers’ Digital Skills: What the data tells us. The presentation includes:

  • Examples of digital skills in the workplace
  • Data of US Workers’ foundational digital skills
  • What the data means
  • How we can connect the dots for policymakers

The presentation was given in June so COVID is part of the picture, which is important since COVID has changed nearly everything we do – and some of the changes are likely here to stay.

I don’t want to be a spoiler but it includes great examples like how KFC created a VR (virtual reality) escape room to train new employees. You can’t escape until you demonstrate the correct 6-step chicken frying process. There are lists of OSHA-approved construction training online – designed for tablets and smartphones. There’s AR (augmented reality) training for Boeing assembly workers – turns out fewer mistakes than with tradition or traditional-online training.

Where we are sitting with digital skills is not great – 13 percent of those surveyed had no digital skills and 18 percent had limited skills. Those percentages varied by industry; 18 percent of hospitality workers had no digital skills. Their jobs are among the most vulnerable during the pandemic. Working from home becomes a lot more difficult without digital skills. Even if you could sew, bake, fix cars or do something else skilled offline – you’d almost need to promote online to get work during the pandemic.

A surprising statistic – 20 percent of workers with no digital skills are supervisors. That is putting the supervised workers and the employer at risk as I assume someone without digital skills would be hesitant to adopt new technologies. (There are exceptions; I remember a farmer near retirement who hired a young, precision ag expert to learn the ropes as the current team retired out.)

The thing that wasn’t surprising to me is that lack of digital skill impacts all demographics – in other words, there are “kids” without digital skills too. Being able to text without looking or post an Instagram picture is not how they assess digital skills. Everyone needs to learn digital skills. Some pick them up more quickly than others – but no one is born knowing how to add bullet points to a document. Not surprising is the greater gap seen with workers of color and/or immigrants. Structural racism helps drive digital skills gaps.

The presentation is interesting and easy to browse through. If you don’t have people in your life without digital skills or if the only ones you have are long past retirement, it’s easy to think the issues is smaller than it is.

FCC 10th Measuring Broadband America Fixed Broadband Report

The FCC has released the most recent Measuring Broadband America Fixed Broadband Report. It presents perspectives on empirical performance for data collected in September and October 2019 from the following fixed Internet Service Providers:

  • CenturyLink
  • Charter Communications
  • Cincinnati Bell
  • Comcast
  • Cox Communications
  • Frontier Communications Company
  • Mediacom Communications Corporation
  • Optimum
  • Verizon
  • Windstream Communications

I’m just including a few of the table highlights…

Most Popular Advertised Service Tiers

Weighted average advertised download speed among the top 80% service tiers offered by each ISP

The ratio of weighted median speed (download and upload) to advertised speed for each ISP.

The ratio of 80/80 consistent median download speed to advertised download speed.

Weighted average advertised upload speed among the top 80% service tiers offered by each ISP.

OPPORTUNITY (to take a survey!): Community broadband, COVID-19, and economic development

Craig Settles, broadband researcher and advocate, and the IEDC (International Economic Development Council) are looking for economic development professionals to take a survey on broadband, COVID and the economy. Can you help? DO you want to give your two cents worth? The survey closes January 28. Here’s more info…

Please tell us about the state of local broadband after COVID-19 hit?  National policymakers – and IEDC – want to know about initiatives, policies, or programs in your community that possibly influence broadband’s impact on local economies during this pandemic.

When COVID-19 forced everyone home, was broadband ready? Telehealth took center stage, but did supporting technologies and local healthcare keep up? How did distance learning affect the digital divide in education?
We know your time is valuable and thank you in advance for sharing your insight and knowledge. This survey takes just a few to complete. To make things easy, the survey resumes right where you stop if you are interrupted.

This survey’s deadline is 11:59 PM (PST) January 28. Shortly afterwards, IEDC will share the final survey results and analysis report with you. Your input helps guide broadband policy as well as drive broadband access nationwide.
International Economic Development Council greatly appreciates you taking time to give us your feedback!

Pew looks at opinions of Americans on COVID and Technology

Pew has been surveying people about their use and opinion of technology during the pandemic…

Over the course of the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States, Pew Research Center has studied Americans’ attitudes about the role and effectiveness of various technologies and their views about digital privacy and data collection as it relates to the pandemic. Here is what we found.

The tables really say it all – so that’s what I’m going to include below. The table includes the dates that people were surveyed. Most seem to be April, but not all. I can’t wait to see how/if opinions change over time.

General…

Affordability…

    Technology as tool against COVID… 

NTCA report surveys rural broadband providers: aiming for fiber

NTCA reports on their members’ current and future broadband

To gauge the deployment rates of advanced services by its member companies, for nearly two decades NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association (NTCA) has conducted its Broadband/Internet Availability Survey. NTCA is a national association representing nearly 850 rural rate-of-return regulated telecommunications providers in 45 states.
All NTCA members are small network operators that are “rural telephone companies” as defined in the Communications Act of 1934, as amended by the Telecommunications Act of 1996. All of NTCA’s
members are full service local exchange carriers and broadband service providers. Respondents to this
year’s survey report an average of 3,978 residential and 456 business fixed broadband connections in service.

It’s a look at how the non-national, local folks are doing. I look at these numbers and think about the Minnesota broadband goals of 25/3 by 2022 and 100/20 by 2026. I also think about the comparative goals – the ones that say Minnesota is aiming to be a broadband leader and I wonder if those speeds goals will still get us there.

And interesting to see the adoption spikes in the last year – likely due to increased need with the pandemic restrictions.

 

COVID is good excuse for farmers to go online to access mental health assistance – but not always the best reason

Ag Week reports on tele-mental health for farmers…

Along with farmer-specific helplines, farmers across the country can now seek help for mental stress through virtual counseling and online training, according to interviews with health professionals.

The COVID-19 pandemic forced many people to receive help virtually. According to a June report from the American Psychological Association, about 75% of clinicians were only treating patients remotely.

But the telehealth options for farmers have little to do with the pandemic. Instead, experts said, teletherapy can make mental health services more accessible and more confidential for farmers.

They don’t have to travel potentially long distances to receive help. Nor do they have to risk being seen at therapy, because there is a stigma of mental health issues in the farming community.

Minnesota has set up a hotline…

Several Midwestern states — including Wisconsin, Nebraska, Minnesota and Iowa — also have a hotline or helpline specifically for farmers.

Services are available by phone and broadband…

Monica McConkey, a counselor in Minnesota, is also doing many of her sessions virtually, but she said most of her clients prefer speaking on the phone rather than via Zoom or Facetime.

McConkey agreed that virtual counseling is easier for those who typically have to travel long distances to access care, especially in the fall when people are harvesting. She also said some people feel more protected on a virtual platform compared to in-person counseling.

“If emotional things do come up, they’re not sitting face-to-face with people,” McConkey said. “We know a lot of our farmers, even just showing the emotion of crying is really hard for them when there are other people present.”

When internet connections become spotty, a familiar experience in rural areas, people can call on the phone, McConkey said.

COVID push to get kids online for school worked for computers but not broadband

The Benton Institute for Broadband and Society looks at students’ access to technology at the start at the pandemic (April 23-May 5) and seven months later (November 11-13). Access to computers increased; access to broadband didn’t.

They report on the computers…

Device availability (either always or usually) increased from 86.7% to 90.9% from May to November, with a notable increase in computers always being available (70.2% to 76.0%). Translating that into numbers (assuming a K-12 student population of 53.1 million) means that about 3 million more student households had computers always available for educational purposes in November 2020 than in May 2020.

More computers in student households were also coming from schools according to the November 2020 data. In May, 37.4% of households with students said a computer was provided by a child’s school or school district. This figure climbed to 62.0% by November.

And broadband…

Households with students in kindergarten through 12th grade have seen little change in internet availability since May, with that figure increasing from 89.3% to 90.4% (a statistically significant difference). Essentially the same share of these households has the internet always available for educational purposes over the 6-month time frame. For internet availability that is “always” or “usually” present, about 590,000 more households with K-12 students have the internet since May 2020.

Availability patterns play out among familiar lines of household income. The November data shows that, for households with incomes below $35,000 annually, 62.1% say the internet is always available for educational purposes while 75.8% of household above that income level say this. This filters into other metrics, as one-third (33.3%) of lower income households report the internet is either usually available (21.5%) or sometimes (11.8%). For households above the $35,000 annual income threshold, just 20.1% says this, with 15.4% saying the internet is usually available and 4.7% saying it is always available.

We saw that when we spoke to different Minnesota Counties about their COVID situation. Rock County is well served with nearly 100 percent access to broadband. To serve the students who weren’t set up they found computers and a way to make existing broadband affordable. While other counties, such Kanabec, there may be problems with computers and affordability but the bigger problems in that there is no adequate access. Surveys showed that while 6-12 percent of student households lacked access to Kanabec, 20-30 percent lacked adequate access.) Expanding or upgrading broadband where it doesn’t exist is not as easy.

It’s clearly awesome to get computers to the kids who need them. Heck – to the adults too. But access to broadband would have the longer standing impact. Households with broadband reap an economic benefit of $1850 (on the low end) and $10,500 (on the high end). It would increase the value of the homes. It would give that household access to a tool that will definitely outlive even the best computer.

More than half of households used telehealth in 2019

NTIA reports

Telemedicine and telehealth-related activities are on the rise, according to NTIA’s November 2019 Internet Use Survey, which found that more households are using the Internet to communicate with health professionals, access health records, and research health information.

Because the survey was conducted prior to the outbreak of COVID-19, it provides an important baseline for understanding the prevalence of telehealth usage among American households and the importance of Internet access for essential services.

The proportion of households that accessed health or health insurance records online grew from 30 percent in 2017 to 34 percent in 2019 (see Figure 1). Households communicating with a doctor or other health professional online grew by two percentage points, and households that researched health information online grew by one percentage point between 2017 and 2019.

As someone who lives in the place between research and practice, I can tell you that statistics are always about a year (or more!) behind what I want. But this will be a good base to compare the impact of 2020 and the pandemic when those stats are collecting.

It also makes the point that statistics are not always linear. One disruption – positive or negative – can change the trajectory. Be that a pandemic or someone installing fiber throughout your town.

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.

Broadband investments have helped Minnesota’s business competitiveness

Business North reports…

The Minnesota Chamber released the sixth annual Business Benchmarks report today, a detailed analysis of economic indicators in several categories.

This report identifies positive, troubling and mixed trends in the state’s business climate:

I’m including the one that is broadband-related…

Investments in infrastructure have helped Minnesota’s competitiveness, and access to broadband continues to improve through private and public investment.

Wireline Broadband Providers add 1,530,000 in 3Q 2020

Leichtman Research Group, Inc. (LRG) reports…

November 18, 2020 — Leichtman Research Group, Inc. (LRG) found that the largest cable and wireline phone providers in the U.S. – representing about 96% of the market – acquired about 1,530,000 net additional broadband Internet subscribers in 3Q 2020, compared to a pro forma gain of about 615,000 subscribers in 3Q 2019.

These top broadband providers now account for about 104.9 million subscribers, with top cable companies having about 72 million broadband subscribers, and top wireline phone companies having about 32.9 million subscribers.

Findings for the quarter include:

  • Overall, broadband additions in 3Q 2020 were about 915,000 more than in 3Q 2019
    • Broadband additions in 3Q 2020 were the most in any quarter since 1Q 2009
  • The top cable companies added about 1,320,000 subscribers in 3Q 2020 – compared to a net gain of about 830,000 subscribers in 3Q 2019
    • Cable broadband had over one million net adds for the third consecutive quarter – the first time since 3Q 2006-1Q 2007
    • Comcast’s 633,000 net adds in 3Q 2020 were more than in any quarter in the past fifteen years
  • The top wireline phone companies added about 210,000 subscribers in 3Q 2020 – compared to a net loss of about 220,000 subscribers in 3Q 2019

“With the continued impact of the coronavirus pandemic, there were more quarterly net broadband additions in 3Q 2020 than in any quarter in over eleven years,” said Bruce Leichtman, president and principal analyst for Leichtman Research Group, Inc.  “Over the past year, there were about 4,550,000 net broadband adds, compared to about 2,550,000 net broadband adds over the prior year. This marks the most broadband net adds in a year since 3Q 2008-2Q 2009.”

It would be so nice to see them invest in areas that need better service. Here’s how specific providers did…

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.