The business end of digital skills: everybody wins – households can gain $1,363 to $2,879 per year

The National Skills Coalition took a look at the impact of digital skills training on workers, the word force and businesses…

The findings in this analysis are unequivocal:

There is overwhelming demand for digital skills in the labor market, with 92 percent of all job ads requiring definitely digital or likely digital2 skills. This demand is robust across all industries, and small businesses are just as likely as their larger peers to seek workers with technology skills.

Yet many workers have not had sufficient opportunity to build such skills; earlier research found that nearly one-third of U.S. workers do not have foundational digital skills, and workers of color fall disproportionately into this category due to structural inequities.3

Equipping workers with necessary skills requires action by both private employers and public policy[1]makers. Notably, public investments in workforce development and education are especially vital given the unevenness of private investments and the prevalence of digital skill demands among smaller businesses, which depend on publicly funded work[1]force and education partners to upskill employees.

Closing the digital skill divide has major payoffs for businesses. Prior research has shown that workers value upskilling opportunities and prefer working for employers who offer clear, well-defined path[1]ways to advancement.4 Because turnover has heavy costs for businesses – with estimates ranging from $25,000 for workers who leave within the first year to over $78,000 for workers who leave after five years,5 averting or delaying turnover by ensuring that workers have upskilling opportunities can be economically significant.

Public investments in closing the digital skill divide can also generate economic benefits for individual workers and the broader economy. People who qualify for jobs that require even one digital skill can earn an average of 23 percent more than those working in jobs requiring no digital skills — an increase of $8,000 per year for an individual worker.6 These increased earnings could result in more state and federal tax revenue generated by each worker. Depending on the household size and composition, this could range from $1,363 to $2,879 per year.7

State of Digital Inequity: we need to understand and remember it to build equity

Connect Humanity published the State of Digital Inequity: Civil Society Perspectives on Barriers to Progress in our Digitizing World, a global look at barriers that prevent people from fully participating in the world that most of us take for granted. I always love a report like this but I was wondering if there was a place for it in blog given the global scope and well, it’s kind of librarian-nerdy. Then I went to the Capitol where Senator Kunesch asked a good question about digital equity with communities of color. (The quick answer is that Minnesota is working on a digital equity plan – and you can help!) And last week several Representatives asked questions that indicated they were so far away from folks who are unserved that they didn’t know what to ask.

And then I saw the banner at the right and I remembered that most of the world takes technology for granted. It’s a tool that we have and use because we have broadband, a device (or two) and the skills to use it. Then there’s another part of the world who doesn’t have access and because of it, they can’t even speak up about the need. They can’t send emails or TikToks to get the attention they need. To close the gap, we have to remember it and understand it. The report is full of good info and statistics but here are their key findings:

  • Infrastructure & Access: Inadequate or unavailable internet access affects everyone, but the people CSOs serve are more likely to be impacted by a lack of connectivity due to poor infrastructure and issues with their internet providers.
  • Policy: While CSOs view access to both information and the internet as basic rights, many CSOs feel their governments do not have policies that support this.
  • Content: When it comes to the resources that motivate people to use the internet, email and chat services are by far the most important to CSOs and the people they serve. It is important that these services are available in local languages, which, the survey shows, they mostly are.
  • Affordability: The high cost of both devices and internet access remains a significant barrier for both CSOs and the people they serve and prevents them from participating meaning-fully in our digital world.
  • Digital Skills: Though CSOs agree that digital skills are important, a lack of training on how to use the internet and digital devices is a major issue for both CSOs and the people they serve. Few feel their employees are well trained on the devices and software they use

MN Broadband Task Force Report 2022: State should invest in broadband!

The Minnesota Broadband Task Force Report 2022 is out. The chair of the Task Force Teddy Bekele presented it to the MN House Agriculture Finance and Policy committee meeting today (Jan 17, 2023).

They have recommended annual funding for the Border to Border grants through 2026 to meet the speed goals of 100 Mbps down and 20 up. According to the chart (show below) the cost to the State would be $273,784,250 per biennial (for two years, which is the legislative cycle) if the grant match continues to be 50 percent. That number increases to $569,773,625 with a 75 percent match.

They have also recommended that the cap per award be lifted from $5 million to $8 million to allow for larger projects and cover the increasing cost to reach the households that are hardest to reach.

The other recommendations include:

  • Mapping
  • Affordability
  • Adoption Goals
  • Usage and Navigation

Details are included in the report.

Why is computer ownership less in rural areas? How can it improve?

Digitunity is a national organization working to close technology gaps. They recently published a report (Rural Communities & Digital Device Ownership: Barriers & Opportunities) on device ownership in rural areas. They looked at three important factors that speak to the need and hampered solution to low computer ownership:

  • Current ownership and rural demographics that do not match up with computer ownership
  • Fewer options for getting refurbished computers or discount devices (even due to ACP)
  • Fewer organizations offering help connect users to computers

The challenge for households?

If universal computer ownership is the goal, this “status quo” means rural communities face an uphill battle. There are a larger percentage of households to reach and a larger number of miles to cover to reach them.

The challenge for business support?

Rural locations typically have fewer options for supplying devices than more urban areas. Local businesses are often an important source of previously used computers. They feature heavily in donation efforts for many device drives (Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, 2021).

The challenge for nonprofit/community support?

Technology-focused nonprofit spending is especially low in rural locations, with $40 spent by an urban nonprofit for each $1 spent by a rural nonprofit (Neuhoff & Dunckelman, 2011). Other studies found that organizational capacity is lacking in rural nonprofits (Walters, 2020). Part of this may be due to significantly more square miles being covered per organization (Neuhoff & Dunckelman, 2011).

Recommendations?

  1. Build on What You Have

Rural areas tend to have a higher percentage of lower-income and elderly individuals, and less robust nonprofits and libraries to engage with them. However, other support

networks also exist in rural America, such as religious organizations, book or quilting clubs, or farm cooperatives that often work with these exact demographics.

  1. Develop Rural-Urban Linkages

Distance to urban areas with device refurbishers or computer repair businesses is

another rural disadvantage. However, once a relationship is established, opportunities

exist for mutual benefit (Mayer et al., 2016).

Minnesotans who have landlines want to keep them

Minnesota Commerce Department reports

Most Minnesota residents, businesses and city governments that still use landline telephones report being highly satisfied, and the vast majority say they’re unlikely to drop their service, according to survey findings released today by the Department of Commerce.

Commerce’s survey found that 82 percent of residents and 89 percent of businesses that currently use landlines expect to continue. Landlines are viewed as critical for safety and emergencies, with 60 percent of residents and 78 percent of city governments citing that as an important reason for maintaining service.

More detail…

Minnesota has 400,000 residential landlines and 400,000 landlines that serve businesses or governments. The survey, conducted by Wilder Research, attracted 2,015 responses from residents, city governments, and businesses. High satisfaction levels were found across rural, small town, large town, and urban populations.

The survey covered all regions of the state, which is served by more than 100 landline providers. Despite the high levels of satisfaction reported generally, Commerce still regularly receives and investigates complaints about service failures from customers.

Respondents with landlines do not discount the utility of cell phones. Among residential respondents, 79 percent said they also see cell phones as very important.

Other findings from Commerce’s survey:

  • More than 8 in 10 business and city government users said their operations would be impacted if they stopped using landline phone service. The majority reported the impacts would be significant.

  • Nearly 1 in 5 residential respondents do not have broadband internet. Many believe it is unnecessary or too expensive.

  • Residents, businesses, and city governments all reported being more satisfied with their landline service than with their cell phone service.

St. Scholastica DNP Students Present Research on Integrating Behavioral Health into Primary Care through Telehealth in Rural Minnesota

Thanks to the folks at Wilderness Health for sending info on this interesting research. Finding a way to make it easier to get mental health care in rural areas would reap benefits…

The College of St. Scholastica’s Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) Students, Madison Mack, RN, BSN and Rachel Barger, RN, BSN, presented their research on “Implementing a Primary Care Behavioral Health Integration Model into Telehealth Visits in Rural Minnesota” to the Wilderness Health Telehealth Committee on December 8th.

Mack and Barger’s research follows previous studies done by fellow DNP student, Kerry Reuter. Reuter’s research focused on the benefits of and barriers to accessing telehealth in rural areas of MN. The CSS DNP students work seeks to take telemental health to the next level in the region served by Wilderness Health members and fellow care providers and community groups in the Arrowhead.

Mack and Barger’s research and curiosity were fueled by the barriers to accessing mental healthcare in rural Minnesota. These include stigma, confidentiality issues, shortages of mental health care providers, cost of care, and a lack of transportation resources. They noted that “rural patients travel nearly three times longer to seek mental health care than those in urban areas.”

The proposed model by Mack and Barger aims to reduce these barriers through an integrated primary care behavioral health approach utilizing telehealth. They focused on the interaction between physical and mental health and suggested that primary care providers like family doctors and nurse practitioners work hand in hand with mental healthcare providers to care for the whole person. Telehealth technologies can help bring these behavioral health specialists into rural clinics virtually. Mack and Barger’s Northeastern Minnesota Resident survey included participants from Lake, Cook, St. Louis, Itasca, and Koochiching Counties and found that 87% of respondents believed NE MN residents would benefit from tele-mental health visits.

Mack and Barger shared their insights about best practices with the Wilderness Health Telehealth Committee, bringing together community mental health and equity advocates, healthcare professionals within and outside the Wilderness network, IT, compliance, billing, and other administrative specialists.

Wilderness Health works with its nine member partners on a variety of initiatives to improve rural health in Minnesota. Wilderness Health was named the 2022 Minnesota Rural Health Team Award winner by the Minnesota Department of Health for its outstanding work improving patient experience, advancing patient and community health outcomes, lowering costs, and enhancing the care team.

Next Steps
The work is only beginning. Wilderness Health plans to work with incoming DNP students from the College of St. Scholastica to further research and implement access to care through telehealth in rural areas.

MN State of Talent Tech: Business better poised than workers? If so for how long?

The Minnesota Technology Association has released a report on the MN State of Talent Tech. The executive summary says it all. The opportunities are here but unevenly distributed in terms of training and supporting a diverse workforce…

The Minnesota Technology Association (MnTech) has long heard about challenges in finding tech talent, and in order to understand the true magnitude of this challenge has released the first annual Minnesota: State of Tech Talent report, detailing the current tech talent landscape. This report details how the tech sector continues to contribute to the strong Minnesota economy, with the average annual median tech wage at $94,715, 106% higher than the median state wage, an unemployment rate at only 1.1% in the sector, and 1 person hired for every 4 tech positions posted.

However, much of the good news about tech talent and opportunity ends there. We are 46th in the nation when looking at job growth in large part due to the lack of talent to fill open roles.

Minnesota is in the bottom half of the country for representative diversity in tech, with women, Black or African American, Hispanic/Latino, and Native American/Indigenous (BIPOC) populations all underrepresented as compared to their respective representation in the labor force.

In Minnesota, 89% of all tech job postings require a four-year degree, yet less than 22% of BIPOC talent in the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area hold a bachelor’s degree. By most measures, Minnesota is falling behind when it comes to tech talent development. We are last in the nation, ranked 50th out of 50 states for high schools offering foundational computer science courses.

Only 12% of urban schools, 18% of suburban, and 25% of rural high schools offer foundational computer science courses, and women, Black or African American, Hispanic/Latino, and Native American/Alaskan students are taking advanced placement (AP) exams at rates less than half of their respective overall student populations.

Minnesota colleges are not producing enough degree holders to meet demand either, as they are annually producing approximately 600 fewer software developers than for which there is demand. However, over the last decade, Minnesota has more than doubled the number of computer science graduates, showing there is opportunity for increases in the years to come. Given that 72% of graduates from Minnesota colleges stay in the state, the 5th highest in the nation, investing in our college’s computer science programs will help solve our talent challenges today and into the future.

Benton Institute offers four broadband adoption lessons for policymakers

The Benton Institute for Broadband & Society took a look at the great increase in broadband adoption during the pandemic (Broadband Benefit Programs are Helping to Close the Digital Divide: Four Lessons for Policymakers). They looked at where increases were greatest, what connections were most popular and tracked what seemed to encourage greater use. They came up with four lessons:

1. Discover, grow, and replicate

The data show that progress is possible. State broadband planners should determine where it is happening, build upon it, and replicate it in other parts of the state.

2. Do not grow complacent—subscription vulnerability is a persistent problem

The Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) is scheduled to sunset when funding runs out—which could occur sometime in 2024. Policymakers should extend the program beyond its current funding limit.

3. Focus more on affordability and less on technology

Adoption patterns have shifted under the  ACP. Through September 2022, 56% of the 13.5 million ACP enrollees are wireless users, with 43% having enrolled in wireline service. These shifting adoption patterns indicate that the ACP-eligible population is using the subsidy to satisfy their affordability needs as they see them.

4. Take a bow, but don’t take a rest

We are in an era when the potential to tackle the digital divide has never been greater. Maintaining funding to help households address affordability challenges is a looming concern.

As part of the process, they looked at adoption rates in major US cities. Here’s what they found in Minneapolis:

Population 188,681
Percent At or Below 125% Federal Poverty Level 19.1%
Wireline Change 2019 to 2021 6.2%
Wireline Change 2017 to 2021 7.1%
Desktop/ Laptop Change 2019 to 2021 5.6%
Cell Only Change 2017 to 2021 0.4%
Cell Only Change 2019 to 2021 −2.3%
Tablet Change 2019 to 2021 4.0%
Smartphone Change 2019 to 2021 2.4%

 

Digital Equity Ecosystems Measurement Framework: A tool to help you assess your community digital equity resource level

The opportunity for Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) funding has communities wondering if they are well poised and doing the right things to maximize their opportunity to get funding. Colin Rhinesmith and Rafi Santo have come up with a tool (Digital Equity Ecosystems Measurement Framework) to help communities assess their preparedness. The tool looks at three things:

■ Coalition Health – The coalition health level speaks to the coalition’s structure and enactment: to what degree are members participating in coalition activities? Do they have strong relationships? Do they believe they can accomplish the goals they set out together? Is effective and equitable governance in place?

■ Member Strength – The member strength level speaks to the ability of coalition member organizations to carry out activities that promote community level outcomes: what issues are member organizations focused on? Where do they work, and with whom? How strong is their capacity in different areas?

■ Community Impact – Finally, the community impact level speaks to the on the ground issues that are of primary importance to the coalition: what is the nature of digital access issues in the community? Do community members have the digital skills they need to participate in society? Is the community collectively empowered in relation to the technological world?

The worker-be in me loves the worksheet-style information that includes aspects to measure and how to measure them. You can see a sample below:

There are recommendations for moving forward…

1. As coalitions move forward and aim to bring the ideas shared in this report into practice locally, there are several critical steps that we recommend: 1 Establish a collective process for determining why your coalition wants to engage in measurement, and what should be measured to achieve those ends. Questions of how and what data will be collected, how it will be analyzed and by whom, and many other important implementation issues around measurement in practice are downstream from these foundational questions. Establishing why a coalition wants to engage in measurement should serve to specify what kinds of indicators are important to collect data on, which can then help specify an overall approach to measurement. Critically, in coalitions, the process of answering these questions can be one that all stakeholders can be involved in in some way. While backbone organizations are often the natural stakeholder to lead such a process, as with other areas of governance, determining a high level measurement strategy is both more equitable and effective through the participation of members and other stakeholders. This is especially important if part of what will result from a new measurement strategy is members being asked to participate in things like surveys and coalition self-assessment activities, not to mention the creation and use of shared data collection mechanisms.

2 Articulate a coalition theory of change and associated logic model. As noted earlier in the report, if a coalition does not already have a developed theory of change and logic model, the process of developing a measurement strategy presents an important opportunity to do so. Articulating short term, medium term, and long term outcomes, as well as how specific coalition activities aim to “move the needle” on them, can provide an important localized model to guide measurement that can draw on the DEEM framework. With a logic model in hand, a coalition can then determine which areas of activity are most important to focus on within a data strategy based on the measurement uses it’s identified.

3 Develop data collection, analysis, and use plans. Having answered questions about why it wants to engage in measurement and what measurement should focus on, a coalition is then ready to begin determining how to go about measurement activities including data collection, analysis, and use. This includes matching indicators to potential data sources and measurement approaches such as tracking databases, surveys, publicly available data, etc. Plans around how these data will be analyzed, and then the contexts of data use and representation should be well envisioned as part of this stage of developing a coalition measurement strategy

4 Actively incorporate plans around data consent, privacy, harms, and security. As digital equity advocates know well, histories of harm are all too common when it comes to uses of data. A key element of a coalition measurement strategy should be a clear articulation of what data will be collected, how it will be stored securely, how it will (and will not) be used, how privacy will be protected, and how those providing data will have fully informed consent within data collection activities. Within this, questions of data de-identification, especially around data from vulnerable populations, should be paramount. 5 Engage in iterative development of measurement strategies. The process of developing and implementing a coalition measurement strategy is not a ‘one and done’ activity. As with all other work, measurement strategies require iteration in order to both improve existing approaches as well as to modify focus based on shifts in coalition activity. Creating mechanisms for reflection around a coalition data strategy can help articulate the utility and limitations of certain measurement approaches, as well as help identify new areas of need when it comes to measurement.

Broadband price disparities in Minneapolis are some of the worst

The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports

A house in the Audubon Park neighborhood of northeast Minneapolis, once redlined by federal agencies, pays $50 a month to CenturyLink for internet service with speeds up to 80Mbps.

Not far away, in a neighborhood that wasn’t redlined, that same $50 to CenturyLink buys high-speed fiber internet with speeds up to 200Mpbs.

Similar differences have been found in other Minneapolis neighborhoods as well as cities throughout the country, according to data released and analyzed by the tech news nonprofit the Markup. But Minneapolis has “one of the most striking disparities” among 38 U.S. cities examined, the nonprofit found.

“Formerly redlined addresses were offered the worst deals almost eight times as often as formerly better-rated areas” in Minneapolis, the report said. The group’s analysis focused on CenturyLink in Minneapolis, the provider offering the most fiber service in the city, but did not compare service offers among other providers in town.

In cities across the country, people living in homes in redlined areas got worse dollars-per-megabit internet deals, according to the nonprofit, which analyzed more than 800,000 internet service offers from AT&T, Verizon, EarthLink, and CenturyLink. It found that “all four routinely offered fast base speeds at or above 200Mbps in some neighborhoods for the same price as connections below 25Mbps in others.” The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) defines broadband as 25Mpbs or more.

Redlining was a government-backed effort that segregated Black families into particular neighborhoods deemed “undesirable” by the now-defunct Home Owners’ Loan Corp. Though the practice was outlawed in 1968, the impacts remain, affecting homeownership, education and other quality-of-life issues.

This was a hot topic on the Black Broadband Summit last week. Attendees talk about their own experience with high bills and slow speeds and the exacerbated need for broadband during the pandemic and civil unrest following the murder of George Floyd. One solution notes was to treat utility as a utility…

“We allow monopolies for internet service because internet isn’t considered a utility like it should be,” Augustine said. “It should be like water. If you want to be a modern citizen of the world, you need high-speed internet. Otherwise, you’re automatically a second-class citizen.”

Philanthropy and Broadband – classic combination – and a guidebook to help

The Benton Foundation has created a guidebook – Pathways to Digital Equity: How Communities Can Reach Their Broadband Goals—and How Philanthropy Can Help. They recognize that philanthropy has at least two roles to play. First, and most obvious, funding. Yes, a boatload of funding is coming into broadband – more than we could have dared to dream 10 years ago – but it will not be enough. We need the philanthropic community to help reach everyone. Second, and maybe even more importantly, philanthropy can get people to the table to join the discussion. Some people show up for the possibility of a check but that doesn’t mean they don’t listen and learn. Also, philanthropy often partners with policymakers and frontline leaders. And philanthropy can take the long view. Nonprofits are worried about keeping the doors open, businesses are worried about making money and elected officials worry about the next vote. Philanthropy can be patient.

Here are the chapters in the guidebook…

Rural Communities perspective on national broadband imperative

The Rural Communities and the National Broadband Imperative 2022 is a post-pandemic primer on rural broadband. Much of it will not be new to readers. But it is a nice look at all aspects of rural broadband (including citations) on every aspect of broadband in rural areas – from how it’s used and needed to how and why there are issues. It’s a useful tool if you are talking to folks who have not been entrenched in broadband for years.

Useful to everyone is the final recommendations:

Create a rural broadband information clearinghouse: Create an easy to locate, accessible resource clearinghouse that centralizes solutions, data, and information for rural communities to leverage and develop broadband solutions for their own community. In a recent report, GAO59 noted: Federal broadband efforts are fragmented and overlapping, with more than 100 programs administered by 15 agencies. Many programs have broadband as their main purpose, and several overlap because they can be used for the purpose of broadband deployment. This overlapping can lead to the risk of unintended duplication of federal funding support and confusion. An effective clearinghouse will reduce the administrative burdens of rural communities seeking to build out their broadband networks. A Clearinghouse will also assist in ensuring that communities understand funding availability,

Reduce regulatory impediments: Eliminate and reduce unnecessary rules and regulations around broadband deployment. Broadband policies should improve the availability of affordable broadband services in rural areas, including the underserved and unserved areas in rural America. In addition to reducing Federal regulatory issues, local communities and public policy individuals need to reduce state and local impediments. To do this effectively, unnecessary red tape should be eliminated.

Identify and leverage local rural technology champions: Consultation and inclusion of rural community members is paramount to the success of the roll out of rural broadband. It is imperative that all levels of policy conversations around broadband include the input of people living and working in those rural communities. Obtaining buy-in from local communities assists with adoption and affordability.

Leverage technology as an enabler and not an end: Broadband solutions will need to be tailored to specific community needs. Policies should remain technology-neutral to allow for current and future deployment. Funding should be available for technologies that provide acceptable broadband service and is readily available to meet the future needs of rural communities. However, it is essential to include that funding applicants and/or partners must have a proven track record, including the financial and technical capacity to build, manage, and operate a sustainable network.

Mapping for rural communities: Mapping on a house-by-house, location-by[1]location basis is important to understand where broadband internet service is available and to show where broadband issues and connectivity are lacking. There are examples of states and other agencies taking on the responsibility of determining the availability of coverage in their areas. These local or statewide programs assist with ascertaining a valid coverage map/ plan. The BEAD (Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment)Program60 will announce available funding following the FCC’s public release of its Broadband DATA Maps 61, and give applicants 180 days to apply to the fund. The FCC has announced that its Broadband DATA Maps will be released in November 2022. The identification of underserved and unserved areas will assist in closing the digital divide and deployment.

Affordable access: Providers should be encouraged to offer programs for adoption addressing broadband affordability for the consumers. Providers should be made aware of and encouraged to participate in the existing and future federal broadband affordability programs. If possible, states should have consistent eligibility criteria with federal affordability programs, enabling providers to quickly address affordability and make all available options known to rural and remote communities.

Leverage local anchor institutions and other partners: Anchor institutions like schools, libraries, hospitals, medical or healthcare providers, community colleges and other institutions of higher education can be leveraged for greater adoption. Programs providing broadband to anchor institutions should be taken into consideration. Anchor institutions often have high-capacity fiber connections that can provide a jumping-off point to facilitate broadband connectivity to the surrounding residential and business community.62 Rural broadband policies must include creative and non-traditional partnerships. Support for broadband deployment and adoption will need to include local partnerships that help drive programs to deploy broadband cost-effectively.

Increase digital literacy: Increasing availability doesn’t guarantee adoption. Consider having local rural organizations drive adoption by developing programs specifically geared toward specific demographics (i.e., aging, immigrants, etc.). For successful adoption by rural community members, the daunting world of cell phones and the internet must be shown to be helpful in everyday life. Early literacy programs assist with this as more and more educational, healthcare, and business opportunities are only available online. Funding should be available for literacy training, ensuring consumers have the equipment and information they need to get online.

Middle Mile: The term “middle-mile infrastructure” means any broadband infrastructure that does not connect directly to an end-user location, including an anchor institution; (Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act ).63 Approving the funding for middle-mile infrastructure reduces the cost of rural community members while simultaneously ensuring that the anchor institutions which are essential to rural life have broadband. Federal and state regulations can greatly impact connecting the middle-mile with the last-mile assists in providing affordable broadband services to unserved areas.

Workforce development: Rural broadband offers significant opportunities to live and work in rural communities, creating and maintaining jobs that sometimes pay higher than local wages. Additionally, rural broadband will require a trained workforce to deploy broadband in each state, creating job opportunities in rural and remote communities. Policy should include workforce development training to successfully and correctly deploy broadband.

Change matching grant requirements for rural communities: Many funding programs often require matching funds that rural communities simply do not have. To deploy grant funding, change requirements for matching funds to accommodate the funding challenges that rural communities will face.

State framework: Policies should provide a framework for states to determine the application process in a fair and straightforward manner. There should not be a blanket prioritization and strategies for states, each state is unique, and the counties within each state may vary considerably in broadband availability, population, geography, or demographics. This is especially true for very rural counties, which may not have any or very limited broadband. As more and more states establish a broadband office, it is essential for local, state, and federal programs and resources to understand the challenges and opportunities that successful broadband deployment can bring to rural America. The BEAD Program64 provides $42.45 billion to expand high-speed internet access by funding planning, infrastructure deployment and adoption programs in all 50 states, Washington D.C., Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands

Who telecommuted during COVID and what does that tell us about future use in Minnesota?

The West Central Tribune reports

new study from University of Minnesota Extension and the Minnesota Department of Transportation offers the most comprehensive look to date at how telecommuting in Minnesota has changed since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

In 2020, Minnesota saw a pivotal shift in the number of people working from home due to the pandemic. MnDOT wanted to capture Minnesota-specific data to understand who is working from home, how it is going, and what the future might look like.

Findings:

  • While the image of an average telecommuter tends to skew young, Extension researchers found that Baby Boomers — the oldest among workers — telecommuted the most. The researchers surveyed more than 1,200 Minnesota employees and employers, in addition to conducting focus groups.
  • Looking forward, the state can expect the greatest levels of telecommuting from people with longer commutes, two-year college degrees and metro-area homes. The data serves as a snapshot in time; it has evolved since 2021 and will continue to change.
  • Whereas three-quarters of employees reported that their organizations will allow teleworking at least part-time post-COVID, not all employers are on board. Nearly a quarter of surveyed employers oppose all but the most minimal telecommuting going forward, even if work allows for it.
  • Greater Minnesota respondents were more likely to telecommute no more than one day a week post-pandemic, while Twin Cities respondents were more likely to telecommute two to three days a week. However, there was no difference between Greater Minnesota and the metro area if respondents were likely to commute four to five days a week.
  • People with children at home are more likely to have formal post-pandemic telecommuting agreements with their employers.
  • Roughly a quarter of employers may recruit completely remote talent from outside of Minnesota.

What should a broadband consumer-friendly label look like?

As far back as the 2010 National Broadband Plan, there have been recommendations for a broadband label for consumers much like nutrition labels we see at the grocery stores. In January, the FCC asked for comments on broadband labels; Carnegie Mellon University came up with that and more. They have a report that looks into labels in depth starting with surveys and recommendations from 2016 and updated recommendations and a draft label based on recent responses to the 2016 model.

Here are their recommendations…

  • Broadband labels should include a range of information valued by consumers but should highlight the information they value most, including information on cost, speed, and reliability.
  • Broadband labels should balance the needs of consumers who value simplicity and conciseness with those who value detailed information. This can be achieved with a standardized label design with links to definitions of terms maintained by the FCC in a format conducive to comparing multiple plans. A layered label design with a summary and full version may help address the needs of a wider range of consumers.
  • Broadband service providers should be required to deposit detailed plan information in a standardized computer-readable form in a publicly accessible database to enable third-parties to generate customized labels for consumers and offer comparison shopping tools, quality of experience or suitability ratings, and other value-added services.
  • Non-optional costs should be bundled into a total cost where possible, including taxes, to make it easy for consumers to determine how much they will need to pay.
  • Performance metrics should be included for downstream speed, upstream speed, latency, and packet loss in both normal and poor performance times.
  • Broadband labels should include some measure of reliability, addressing consumer interest in information about outages and downtime.
  • All data rate units be kept consistent (e.g. all broadband providers would express throughputs in Mbps and latencies in ms).
  • Network management practices should be enumerated on the label in standard groups and accompanied by a standardized glossary with definitions and examples that explain these terms for consumers.
  • Labels and accompanying data should be localized so that consumers can readily compare plan details–including total costs, performance at both normal and busy times, reliability, and network management practices– for a particular geographic location.

And model labels…

Telehealth care effective alternative for lowering blood pressure

Main Site News reports

For the new study, researchers compared two types of care for moderately severe, uncontrolled high blood pressure: traditional clinic-based care, using face-to face visits with doctors and medical assistants, and telehealth care, with home blood pressure telemonitoring and home-based care coordinated via telephone by a pharmacist or in some cases, a nurse. The research was conducted on 3,071 people, whose average age was 60, in a randomized trial involving 21 primary care clinics in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

The telehealth and the clinic-based care were both successful in lowering blood pressure on average by about 18 mmHg on the systolic blood pressure, the “top number” in a reading, and 10 mmHg on the diastolic measurement, or “bottom number.” But there was no significant difference in the change over time in systolic or diastolic blood pressure between the two groups, researchers found.

The study was published Tuesday in the American Heart Association journal Hypertension.

“These results suggest telehealth team care by pharmacists is an effective and safe alternative to clinic-based care for uncontrolled hypertension,” said Dr. Karen Margolis, the study’s lead author.