Should broadband be a utility? Survey says…

Self Financial surveyed over 1000 people about broadband access and the internet. Here’s what they found…

Key Stats:

  • 2 in 3 (68%) would support the internet as a utility

  • An overwhelming majority (95%) believe internet access should be accessible to all Americans, but 13% believe this access should be limited by broadband speed

  • The majority (87%) agree that the internet should be free for educational purposes

  • Over half (52%) believe internet providers offer poor value for money

  • Most (64%) believe that internet provider competition is beneficial for consumers

  • 3 in 4 (77%) believe the internet is essential to achieving the American dream in 2021

  • Over half (52%) avoided seeking medical help during the pandemic due to lack of telehealth options

Study of Libraries in pandemic indicate need to focus on home internet access

New America released a report on libraries and COVID. I’m sure no readers will be surprised, but it turns out that the pandemic highlighted disparities between folks who could get online at home and those who couldn’t…

The pandemic has laid bare the extent of social and educational disparities by racial group, income, and education level. It has particularly affected those without high-speed home internet access, a group in which people of color, low-income Americans, and rural communities are over-represented. These disparities are the legacies of systems that were not built with everyone’s welfare in mind—such as library systems that were originally segregated and educational systems and technology networks designed by and for those able to afford and connect to the internet. The disparities are affecting the way people become aware of, connect to, and use their public libraries, and they need to be addressed head-on by libraries, education leaders, and policymakers both during and after the pandemic.

Our findings highlight the need for more inclusivity, more focus on providing internet access, and more awareness-raising initiatives with local organizations and schools. The stories in this report—of libraries developing mobile Wi-Fi options, creating digital navigator programs to support digital literacy, launching more online programs, and making use of outdoor spaces—show the possibilities of transformation and partnership. The report concludes with eight recommendations for investment in library transformations, expansion of policies such as E-Rate and the Emergency Broadband Benefit to provide better internet access at home, and more collaboration with local schools and organizations. With these changes, libraries can leverage the lessons of the pandemic to help launch more equitable ecosystems of learning across communities, providing access to knowledge, resources, and training, online and off.

The prevalence of broadband in the recommendations highlights the importance of broadband…

For policymakers:

  • Invest in efforts by libraries and schools to bring internet access, online resources, and other tools to underserved households and communities.
    • Expand the E-Rate Program so that libraries and schools can get discounts on the technology services that patrons and students need to get online from home.
    • Support schools, libraries, and community-based organizations in distributing devices such as tablets, laptops, and hotspots.
  • Improve broadband access to low-income households.
    • Make the new $50-per-month Emergency Broadband Benefit permanent and integrate it into the Lifeline program.
    • Require internet service providers to be more transparent about internet costs and hidden fees.
    • Enable municipalities to provide internet service.
  • Encourage collaboration by developing grant programs and other incentives for community-based organizations, libraries, and schools to work together in raising awareness and jointly delivering library services.
  • Provide funding for the expansion of tech-support programs such as Digital Navigators and other programs that enable on-demand, one-on-one troubleshooting, mentorship, and guidance.
  • Provide funding for needs assessments and other research to take stock of how public libraries are used within communities that are marginalized or underserved.

For libraries:

  • Increase outreach and communications efforts to make more residents aware of offerings both online and off.
    • Target outreach so that low-income households; Black, Hispanic, and Asian households; and patrons whose first language is not English are welcomed and connected to the library.
    • Experiment with mobile offerings that bring the library to underserved communities.
    • Establish Digital Navigator programs and similar mentoring initiatives that help patrons build technological fluency, digital literacy, and media literacy skills.

For educators and leaders of community-based organizations:

  • Develop deeper partnerships with libraries to build awareness of resources for clients and students.

  • Include library leaders in strategic planning for programs and services.

Broadband, Local Economies and the Age of COVID: A Report

Craig Settles has released a new report (Broadband, Local Economies and the Age of COVID) based on a survey of 200 economic developers…

In this year’s survey, 200 recipients weighed in on the state of broadband, starting with an assessment of ISP competition as well as broadband alternative to the giant ISPs for communities. This report concludes with some insights and advice for how we can continue to leverage community broadband.

This year, economic development professionals participated from across the U.S. to provide insights and observations.

  • Has COVID-19 set back broadband advance as well as hopes of closing the digital divide?
  • Respondents have a markedly increased interest in telehealth as a local economic tool this year than they had 18 months ago.
  • Some survey participants have witnessed the influence broadband had on low-income and unemployed workers becoming entrepreneurs before and after COVID-19 struck.
  • Respondent weighed in on the impacts of COVID-19 on the determinants of economic development.
  • Federal and state broadband policies and funding rules work to the detriment of local communities.
  • Ultimately, what are the roles of broadband and digital technologies when COVID-19 is done with us?

Here are some of the observations, they made…

  • “There’s a reason ‘broadband is a super-determinant of public health,” says Dr. Bento Lobo, an economist who has researched extensively broadband’s, telehealth’s, and public health’s economic impact. “By having a 10 GB fiber network in his home office, Dr. Jim Busch and the other radiologists together at Diagnostic Radiology Consultants (DRC) save $18.2 million a year in time,” says Dr. Lobo. ”The typical radiologist saves a thousand hours a year.”
  • Pay attention to where cities and towns deploy limited-reach public networks because these locations drive broadband deployment throughout communities. While we see COVID-19 turning healthcare and education delivery on its head, these networks can be foundations on which the two industries establish new delivery points. Limited-reach networks can transform anchor institutions such as libraries and schools into new telehealth delivery points. Telehealth and education nonprofits can consider “adopting” public housing facilities and deliver network services to the underserved. Community centers and abandoned office buildings can have these networks create worker spaces, temporary hospitals and after-school study halls.
  • The promised economic impact of telehealth will not be fully achieved until communities address digital literacy among both doctors and patients. In my first telehealth visit my iPhone showed a “mic” icon, which is how the doc and I know we have an audio connection. But the connection didn’t work, neither of us had time, so we talked on the phone, defeating the purpose of the app.

Communicating for America finds 21 percent of US adults don’t have broadband

Businesswire reports

Communicating for America (CA), a rural and Main Street advocacy organization, has released a new consumer survey to better understand how COVID-19 has affected individual communication and gauge attitudes on health coverage in the midst of a pandemic.

Here’s what they found related to broadband…

When it comes to high-speed broadband service, the survey found overall 21% of 18-65 year old Americans do not have access or are not sure if they have access. Of those who do not have access to high-speed internet, 73% report having their lives meaningfully impacted by internet connectivity in the last 12 months (compared to 54% who do have high-speed internet).

Many respondents to the survey shared ways they have been meaningfully impacted by internet connectivity issues in the past 12 months. Twenty-eight percent said communication with others is a problem, whether they had high-speed internet or not. In addition, 26% said they have connectivity issues when it came to school/education. In addition, the respondents said that internet connectivity meaningfully impacted them in the following ways:

  • 25% work.
  • 18% medical care.
  • 16% when retail shopping.
  • 15% when grocery shopping.

The disparity was especially reflected by race, education and income levels. Whites and Blacks were equally likely to have been impacted by internet connectivity within the past 12 months (51% each), but 59% of Hispanics and 67% of other non-White identifying races reported meaningful connectivity impact in the last 12-months. The survey found that 69% of those with a high school education or lower had high-speed internet, compared to 90% of those with a four-year college degree. Similarly, 70% of those making under $40,000 a year had access to high-speed broadband compared to 91% making $80,000 or more in household income.

More than 12 million US households cancel home broadband service

Park Associates reports

New research from Parks Associates reports more than 12 million US households have cancelled their home broadband service and use only mobile broadband for their internet needs. Adoption and Perception of Broadband finds there are more than 15 million households in the US that have only a mobile broadband service, which includes more than three million households that have never had a home internet subscription.

“High cost is the most prominent issue driving households to cut the cord and go mobile only, although service-related issues, from slow speeds to poor customer experience, also contribute,” said Kristen Hanich, Senior Analyst, Parks Associates. “Service providers can deploy a number of strategies, including increasing speed and delivering a device that improves Wi-Fi coverage, in order to protect their customer base.”

The report was released Q1 2021, which means they are looking at Survey results during the pandemic. It is shocking to me that so many people would cancel home service at a time when so much of life (school, work, healthcare, entertainment) has moved online.

MN Dep of Human Services reports on increased telehealth in 2020 and lessons learned

The Minnesota Department of Human Services report (Telemedicine Utilization Report: Telehealth and Telemedicine during the COVID-19 Pandemic) looks at increased use of and decreased regulation on telehealth during the pandemic. Their high level assessment…

Recommendations for further consideration by DHS include:

  • integrating telemedicine as a permanent modality in delivery of services, developing specific guidance on licensing standards around telemedicine;
  • investing resources in understanding comparatively low level of utilization of telemedicine by Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) communities;
  • advocating and prioritizing funding for telehealth infrastructure development; and
  • supporting legislation to allow Medical Assistance (MA) and MinnesotaCare enrollees to have more than three telemedicine visits in a week.

The report is direct, easy to read and includes information that supports the recommendations. I’m going to try to pull out the salient points by segment, which means I’m removing some context to provide a quicker look at the data but again, you can go to the full report for more detail.

From the Contextual analysis: a brief review of contemporary literature

  • Telehealth and telemedicine have shown to increase access to patients, communities, and vulnerable populations, including adolescents, adults, seniors, veterans, rural patients, persons diagnosed with a disability and/or a mental health condition, and persons with transportation barriers and mobility issues.
  • The provision of health care services via telehealth and telemedicine has been shown to decrease the wait times for emergency departments, an appointment with a general practitioner, and referrals to several medical specialties, such as behavioral health and Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT).
  • Telehealth and telemedicine can be utilized to provide prevention and early intervention services and to support follow-up care for chronic conditions.

From the Initial stakeholder feedback summary

  • Telehealth made it easier to access services, and easier to involve other family members in healthcare services.
  • Telehealth freed-up time to serve more clients/patients in need of services since healthcare staff could provide services from one location, eliminating drive-time between provider sites.
  • Patient/client attendance was improved by fewer “no-shows” and late arrivals.
  • Some patients who would otherwise not access care due to their illness, travel distance, lack of transportation, lack of child/senior care, or level of motivation, can more easily access services in the comfort of their home.
  • The input from metro county ethnic minority groups and rural tribal recipients were positive for telehealth service provision, noting that telehealth improves equity in access to healthcare.
  • Responses from ethnic minority groups and rural tribal recipient groups mentioned a preference that telehealth be provided by telephone and not via the internet.

From the Claims data analysis

  • Of the individuals who utilized telemedicine for all health care services, 20% used telemedicine-only, 15% started services after the PHE and have continued follow-up via telemedicine, approximately 50% of individuals stopped services (submitted no claims after the PHE).
  • Results indicate that of the 87.3% of individuals who received health care services, approximately 25% of the recipients engaged in telemedicine care. Moreover, 14.3% of patients receiving Medicaid who needed care and did not utilize in-person visits were able to utilize telemedicine-only services after the PHE. Further investigation on these particular utilization groups is warranted and could illuminate how to better engage individuals with telemedicine health care services.
  • Results suggest changes in telemedicine utilization which impact age groups differently. Specifically, individuals within age groups 0-5 years old and 66+ years old had more telemedicine claims compared to individuals 6-65 years old. This is inconsistent with the CMS Medicaid and CHIP snapshot data, which found that working age adults were more likely to utilize telemedicine services.
  • To measure provider and service patterns at a more gradient level, next steps will utilize longitudinal method with monthly and/or weekly time points starting in January 2020 to more accurately identify telemedicine trends in provider and services.
  • Age and additional demographics warrant further investigation based on volume based on services received.
  • Further examination on service patterns based on services being utilized by individual differences including racial and ethnic groups and geographic location.

From Focus groups (Provider recommendations)

  • Clear guidelines from DHS on billing and payment, patient notes and any other aspects of care or charting which may be audited or should be standardized across practitioners.
  • State assistance (grants, legislation, etc.) to ensure access to high speed Internet statewide, both for providers and facilities and for patients, especially in rural areas.
  • Providers particularly want to ensure that telephone continues to be viewed as a viable form of treatment and billable on par with video treatment options.
    • This is especially important as Internet availability and reliability continue to be a barrier for many patients in accessing remote medicine via video services.
  • Move to a single or greatly reduced number of HIPAA compliant, easy to use, affordable platforms as the vast number of different programs used currently can create difficulties in coordination of care among facilities, providers and other agencies as well as difficulties for patients who see multiple providers utilizing different systems.
  • One idea is to create a public- private partnership between DHS and a telemedicine platform company which would allow for a low-cost, HIPAA compliant system used by most Minnesota providers. o Pursue interstate licensure for telemedicine so providers close to state borders can serve more patients.
    • Promote collaboration with insurance companies and the state insurance commissioner to ensure equity in billing of telemedicine for patients across Minnesota-based insurance companies.
  • Interpreters are an important part of providing mental health and substance use care, and these providers urged that they be included in supporting a successful telemedicine model in Minnesota.
    • These providers stressed that interpreters who are providing ancillary support to providers should be included in any grant funding for devices, Internet provision or other technological assistance as they are currently left to cover these costs themselves.
    • Likewise, if there is to be any standardization of care guidelines or regulations created by DHS, they should take into account the need for interpreters and having a three-way video call, phone call or other means of utilizing interpreter services.

Lessons learned

  • Integrate telemedicine as a permanent modality in delivery of services
  • Provide training, assistance and clarification in provider manual regarding use of telemedicine
  • Offer specific guidance for Office of Inspector General on review of licensing standards around telemedicine
  • Invest resources in exploring reasons behind comparatively low level of utilization of telemedicine by Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) communities
  • Use of telephone-only as a telemedicine modality for clinical services needs to be examined further and independently of other telemedicine modalities. o Possibly keep this as an option for future public health emergencies.

Broadband, phone and affordability – monthly costs can be 10 percent of budget

A recent article in CNBC highlights the benefits of a livable wage highlights the need for broadband and the need for affordable broadband…

“People are not surviving on the minimum wage,” said Amy Glasmeier, a professor of economic geography and regional planning at MIT, who created a database of regional living wages in 2004 and updates it annually.

Affording everyday items can be a challenge. For example, having a cell phone and broadband internet access — tightly linked to one’s ability to get and hold a job in the digital age — costs about $120 a month, Glasmeier said. That’s almost 10% of a low-wage earner’s budget.

The following chart shows the current minimum wage versus livable wage by state. A single adult making Minnesota minimum wage would spend almost exactly 10 percent of her check on broadband/phone at $120/month.

4 of 10 Americans have experienced online harassment

Pew Research Center reports…

A Pew Research Center survey of U.S. adults in September finds that 41% of Americans have personally experienced some form of online harassment in at least one of the six key ways that were measured. And while the overall prevalence of this type of abuse is the same as it was in 2017, there is evidence that online harassment has intensified since then.

Here is how they define online harassment…

This report measures online harassment using six distinct behaviors:

  • Offensive name-calling
  • Purposeful embarrassment
  • Stalking
  • Physical threats
  • Harassment over a sustained period of time
  • Sexual harassment

Respondents who indicate they have personally experienced any of these behaviors online are considered targets of online harassment in this report. Further, this report distinguishes between “more severe” and “less severe” forms of online harassment. Those who have only experienced name-calling or efforts to embarrass them are categorized in the “less severe” group, while those who have experienced any stalking, physical threats, sustained harassment or sexual harassment are categorized in the “more severe” group.

Younger people have more experience with harassment. Men report more harassment; women report a greater impact of harassment. Pew did offer up some views in helping curb the program…

About half of Americans say permanently suspending users if they bully or harass others (51%) or requiring users of these platforms to disclose their real identities (48%) would be very effective in helping to reduce harassment or bullying on social media.

Around four-in-ten say criminal charges for users who bully or harass (43%) or social media companies proactively deleting bullying or harassing posts (40%) would be very effective.

I look forward to their next survey and wonder how they will tackle harassment that starts online and move offline – especially when it’s a group targeted and not an individual.

Minnesota Digital Equity Community Needs Assessment Report (including COVID impact)

Literacy Minnesota recent release a statewide report on digital equity needs (by county). The report looks at three questions:

  • What counties have high digital access, economic, education and English language learning needs?
  • How have organizations adapted to the pandemic and addressed digital access needs in their communities, who do they serve, and which counties are served?
  • How would a statewide Digital Navigator Program complement available resources and sustainably solve persistent problems?

County Ranking on Highest Needs

The report ranks county based on high priority needs (defined by unemployment, ow wages, low English attainment, access to broadband a computer and more). They present the information in a way that is difficult to share electronically, but I’ve copied the ranking. Here are the counties in greatest need of help. (I’ll paste the full list at the and of this post.)  They have color coded the layers of ranking; I’ve tried to replicate that with bold/not bold. Each change represents a new tier of ranking.

  1. Nobles
  2. Watonwan
  3. Lake of the Woods
  4. Aitkin
  5. Beltrami
  6. Wadena
  7. Mahnomen
  8. Pine
  9. Kandiyohi
  10. Mower
  11. Mille Lacs
  12. Ramsey

Organizational changed due to COVID

Literacy Minnesota surveyed organizations…

The majority of organizations that responded to Literacy Minnesota’s Digital Equity Community Needs Assessment survey shifted to remote programming and services in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Nearly 80% of responses to Literacy Minnesota’s Digital Equity Community Needs Assessment Survey reported that their organization had shifted to distanced or virtual platforms, while about 20% of organizations shut down services. About 40% of organizations made new partnerships and 50% of organizations added services. Among services added, more than 60% distributed devices, 56% helped people access the internet and 47% offered digital literacy services. The Survey was sent to about 700 ABE organizations, broadband providers, CareerForce centers, community organizations, government officials, libraries, nonprofits and schools on November 1, 2020. By November 22, 294 organizations had responded to the Survey — a response rate greater than 42%.

Digital Navigator Recommendations

Literacy Minnesota recommends a learner-centered approach to digital navigation and digital literacy learning, like the learner-centered approach that it applies in ABE, its AmeriCorps VISTA national service program and its trainings and webinars. The agency recommends that organizations holding public trust host digital navigators. Community-based organizations and libraries represent excellent potential host sites for a statewide Digital Navigation Program in Minnesota. The agency also recommends that the Digital Navigator Program utilize the Northstar Digital Literacy program of Literacy Minnesota, which represents the leading technology in digital literacy learning and is available at multiple locations in each of Minnesota’s 87 counties through ABE, libraries, and workforce centers. Literacy Minnesota’s nearly 50 years of ABE experience as well as its emerging digital equity efforts and expertise, like the Ramsey County TechPak Program, a CARES Act project with Hennepin County, and its Open Door Learning Center equity efforts, inform these recommendations.

For folks who are interested in talking more about Digital Navigators, the Blandin Foundation is hosting a “lunch bunch” conversation on Feb 24 from noon to 1pm (CST).

 Below is the full ranking of county by need. Continue reading

Recent report on history and status of broadband in tribal areas (including Fond du Lac in MN)

The Institute for Local Self Reliance recently released a report by H. Trostle on the history and status of broadband in tribal areas: Building Indigenous Future Zones: Four Tribal Broadband Case Studies. They look at four networks built in tribal areas including:

  • Coeur d’Alene Tribe’s Red Spectrum Communications in Idaho
  • Nez Perce Tribe Department of Technology Services (wireless and fiber) in Idaho
  • Fond du Lac Band of Ojibwe’s Aaniin Fiber Services in Minnesota
  • St. Regis Mohawk Tribe’s Mohawk Network in New York

They found five key lessons:

  1. Improve Access to Capital
  2. Avoid Single-Purpose Funding
  3. Recognize the Preparation Needed to Take Advantage of Opportunities
  4. Tribal Employment Rights Offices Are a Value-Add
  5. Respect Native Nations’ Right to Spectrum

Here’s the portion on Minnesota’s Fond du Lac project, including partnership prjects with the Blandin Foundation…

Aaniin was built through years of careful research and feasibility studies. Jason Hollinday, the Director of Planning at Fond du Lac Planning Division, explained how the Fond du Lac Band approached the problem of getting high-speed Internet service throughout their communities.

In 2006, they started to compare wireless and hardwired network types, such as cable and fiber. The original plan called for ten wireless towers throughout the reservation to deliver Internet service to people’s homes. There were a number of issues with this plan, however, one of which was geography. Northern Minnesota has many hills and forests, and the wireless technology at the time was not going to be able to penetrate to many remote areas. It was, however, fairly inexpensive, and Fond du Lac moved forward with seeking grants for the project. They weren’t funded and Hollinday says they were told that the project was “economically infeasible.”

Undaunted, they changed tactics and considered alternatives, allowing them to be prepared when the market changed drastically in 2010. The price of fiber and equipment for a Fiberto-the-Home network fell enough to make a network feasible on paper. They worked with the Blandin Foundation in Minnesota and pursued grants through the USDA.

Community members, however, needed Internet service faster than the fiber network was likely to be built. The Fond du Lac Band already had an institutional network between government buildings. They added 13 wireless hotspots to several of these buildings in 2013. The hotspots have a range of about ¼ mile, and still serve as a stop-gap measure for community members without reliable Internet service at home.

In 2015, they were finally awarded a USDA Community Connect Grant. Two Minnesota Border to Border Broadband Grants were later approved as well and one Housing & Urban Development (HUD) Indian Community Development Block Grant. In total, it was about $9 million in grants, and the Fond du Lac Band matched half that amount with $4.5 million in cash on hand. They had secured all the funding needed to build out a next-generation network.

Starting out, some of the grants required them to build to areas without Internet service of at least 10 Megabits per second (Mbps) download and 1 Mbps upload. Unserved areas were prioritized. Later grants supported building the network to areas without 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload. This enabled the Fond du Lac band to reach the rest of the reservation. The Blandin Foundation had assisted with community outreach about the project. In a series of public meetings, community members talked about what they would like to do with the Internet service. Hollinday described a little bit of doubt from some members, such as “Well we’d never get that here, but if we did have it…,” because the project sometimes seemed too good to be true.

The network went live in Fall 2019. The network, however, continues to expand across the reservation, connecting more people. People are still learning all the capabilities of the Internet service. Since 2014, Fond du Lac has offered a summer camp for teens to create smartphone and iPad apps. Each student creates an app and is given an iPad to take home. The program also supports cultural knowledge. For instance, some of the apps from 2014 went into detail about beading, plants, and the Ojibwe language.15 The possibility of expanding outside of the reservation boundaries has been considered, but the focus right now is on making sure all community members have access to a reliable connection. Using gaming money and possibly further grants to build a fiber network in nearby areas could create a long-term diversified revenue stream for the community.

Study on digital needs of women experiencing homelessness

Benton has just released a research report from Hoan Nguyen on women experiencing homelessness, digital engagement and social inclusion. Regular readers may have picked up that these are topics that I follow, although not always together. Obviously I follow broadband here; I volunteer with communities of people experiencing homelessness. So I was very interested in this study.

The author conducted a 10-month field research to understand the dynamics of digital access and use among people experiencing homelessness in Los Angeles. What struck me immediately was that the first barrier is access to a smartphone or device…

Many of them battled every day to protect their phones from being stolen, lost, or broken due to their precarious living conditions. People living on the street and in transitional housing walked a long distance to find a public charging outlet or else had to rent it in a nearly mobile phone shop. Technology, to them, is more of a luxury than a necessity. Without a doubt, the instability of digital access is an issue for this population.

I might not call technology a luxury. I think the precarious nature of access means it is not (and maybe cannot be) a priority. Especially during the pandemic, it starts with access to a device.

Just yesterday, I walked by a gentleman nodding off with his phone precariously in his hand. This was a very public place and during the day so I figured it wasn’t worth waking him up. But losing a phone can be that quick. You fall asleep or you barter it for safety, warmth or drugs. Once the phone is gone, you lose immediate access but also, you may be shut out of any online identity. As many of us have experienced briefly – if you can’t get into your text or email it can be difficult to log into an account from a new device, even if you have the password.

When the technology can be so easily taken away, it’s difficult to rely on it – especially when you’re also worried about when you will sleep, eat, wash up and more.

The author shares her major findings…

  1. Homeless women face various forms of marginalization
  2. Technology use facilitates homeless women in mitigating social exclusion and achieving social opportunities
    • Social Support, Material Opportunities, and Personal Autonomy:
    • Identity Management:
    • Collective Action for Social Change:

And implications…

My ethnographic fieldwork and interviews show that homeless women tapped into digital resources necessary and available to them to stay connected with supportive systems, challenge the status quo, and seek employment and housing opportunities – that is the role of ICTs in mediating the women’s agency and autonomy.[iv] These are real efforts made to try to improve their capacities and change their lives. Certainly, one can argue that it is very difficult for marginalized groups to change their lives or the conditions that lead to their marginalization, and that it is harder to uproot some stigmas (e.g., chronic health conditions) than others (e.g., homelessness, poverty). However, the capacity to effectuate change, or one’s efforts to make change, is valuable in and of itself, regardless of outcomes.

R Street gives Minnesota a B for broadband

R Street releases their latest Broadband Scorecard. It looks at the role and decision of government to support better broadband…

This scorecard examines laws that govern broadband infrastructure deployment in all 50 states and compiles these data into categories. In some categories, states were given points based on whether they had a law governing a specific aspect of broadband deployment. In categories that included costs or timelines, states were given points based on whether the cost or timeline provided in their law met a certain threshold. For example, a state may get one point for imposing a fee cap on permit applications, and a second point if the cap is $100 or less.

Specifically they look at:

  • Access to public rights of way
  • Franchise agreements
  • Construction permits
  • Miscellaneous (such as zoning)

Here is how they scored Minnesota:

MINNESOTA RAW SCORE: 21 FINAL SCORE: 86 No changes in 2020.
Minnesota scored similarly to Michigan, but for different reasons. With restrictions on in-kind contributions, a dig-once law and a ban on moratoria, Minnesota received a perfect score in the miscellaneous category. However, there is no uniform statewide franchising nor a limitation on the fees that a franchising authority can charge a provider. Improvements can also be made to the length of the shot clocks, but the fact that shot clocks exist at all is a positive for the state.

College students need broadband and connection with teacher

A recent academic research report (Digital inequality, faculty communication, and remote learning experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic: A survey of U.S. undergraduates ) found that undergraduates need broadband and connection with teacher…

Our results suggest that there are two kinds of connection that students need to develop remote learning proficiency: digital connectivity, in the form of consistent, high-speed internet and functional digital devices on the one hand, and strong human connections to the instructors who guide their learning, on the other. While the former provides the foundational infrastructure for students’ access to a novel learning environment, the latter provides the supportive framework to develop the digital skills to successfully navigate it, as well as the motivation to persist until that proficiency is realized.

As such, this study contributes to digital inequality research by identifying how first- and second-level digital inequality are connected within the sudden shift to remote learning during the early stages of the pandemic. Our findings are also consistent with extant literature in finding that financially insecure students report more challenges to maintaining the internet connectivity and devices that enable consistent access to remote learning environments. However, under-connected students may be even more vulnerable in remote than in face-to-face learning conditions, given that digital access is also prerequisite for communicating and securing assistance from teaching assistants and professors in remote learning.

Unfortunately, the study can tell us the problem but not the full impact, since that will unfold over time…

To fully capture how first- and second-level digital inequality are influencing undergraduates’ outcomes from remote learning will require longitudinal studies, Over time, it will be possible to trace how the volatility and vulnerability of being under-connected affects accessing course content and communicating with instructors. Our study’s contribution to the nascent and urgent effort to understand this unintended national experiment in undergraduate education is in providing a clear snapshot of how students experienced the very earliest weeks of the remote learning transition, and of what supported the very earliest stages of their adaptation.

Report shows MN one of few states with telehealth insurance payment parity

There’s a new report on telehealth insurance laws. Here’s the quick take from the report…

Foley & Lardner’s 2021 50-State Survey of Telehealth Commercial Insurance Laws provides a detailed landscape of the state telehealth commercial insurance coverage and payment laws. The report is useful to health care providers (both traditional and emerging), lawmakers, entrepreneurs, telemedicine companies, and other industry stakeholders as a guide of telehealth insurance laws and regulations across all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

In the time since our 2019 report, the legal landscape for telehealth reimbursement has significantly improved. Currently, 43 states and DC maintain some sort of telehealth commercial payer statute, with West Virginia joining the list in 2020. Yet, the quality and efficacy of these laws varies significantly from state to state. For example, three states have telehealth coverage laws on the books that do not actually mandate health plans to cover services delivered via telehealth (Florida, Illinois, and Michigan).

The new report tracks changes post-pandemic start…

Enter the COVID-19 pandemic, which compelled state and federal policymakers to remove restrictions and expand reimbursement for telehealth and virtual care at a rate previously unseen. The new changes followed the previously established pathway of coverage, but the pace at which they were made was stunning. Medicare introduced nearly 100 telehealth service codes covered on a temporary basis until the federal public health emergency declaration expires, including payment for telephone-only consults. States and commercial health plans followed suit. Although some of the reimbursement expansions are temporary and slated to end when the public health emergency expires, many have already become permanently codified into state law.

They look at what’s happening in each state include Minnesota:

  • Does the State Have a Statute? Yes
  • Coverage Provision? Yes
  • Reimbursement Provision? Yes
  • Unrestricted Originating Site? Yes
  • Member Cost-Shifting Protections? No
  • Provision for Narrow/ Exclusive/ In-Network Provider Limits? No
  • Remote Patient Monitoring? Store and Forward? Yes
  • Authorities Minn. Stat. § 62A.671-.672 (the report include the statute in full)

They also report that Minnesota is one of few states with reimbursement/payment parity. Here’s their quick take on payment parity…

What are Telehealth Commercial Coverage and Payment Parity Laws?
Currently, 43 states and DC have some sort of telehealth commercial insurance coverage law, with bills currently under development in several other states. These laws are sometimes referred to as “telehealth commercial payer statutes” or “telehealth parity laws.” They are designed to promote patient access to care via telehealth in a multitude of scenarios, whether the patient is in a rural area without specialist care, or a busy metropolitan city without time to devote three hours to travel to an in-person checkup in a crowded waiting room. There are significant variances across the states, but two related but distinct concepts have emerged: telehealth coverage and telehealth payment parity

UMVRDC members say broadband is Number two issue for the area

UMVRDC surveys Local Units of Government every year. They ask a number of questions to help list the most important topics needing attention. Between 2019 and 2020 broadband went from number 4 on the list to number 2!

The Upper Minnesota Valley Regional Development Commission (UMVRDC) is a five county development agency providing services to local units of government. Its membership is comprised of representatives of townships, cities, counties, school boards, and public interest groups. Geographically, the UMVRDC represents the counties of Big Stone, Chippewa, Lac qui Parle, Swift and Yellow Medicine.