FirstNet, Built with AT&T is Connecting More First Responders Across Minnesota

A recap of sorts from AT&T about FirstNet…

What’s the news? AT&T* is America’s public safety communications partner. In the nearly 5 years since we were selected by the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet Authority) to build and operate FirstNet®, we have moved quickly to bring more coverage, boost capacity and drive new capabilities for Minnesota first responders and the communities they serve – rural, urban and tribal.

Today, we cover nearly all of the state with FirstNet, Built with AT&T – helping to connect public safety agencies and organizations in more than 190 communities across Minnesota. That’s why we’re focused on increasing network capacity for Minnesota public safety by deploying Band 14 spectrum – nationwide, high-quality spectrum set aside by the federal government specifically for FirstNet. We’ve rolled out Band 14 on more than 800 sites across Minnesota to provide public safety with truly dedicated coverage and capacity when they need it. Areas currently benefitting from Band 14 include Minneapolis, St. Paul, Duluth, Rochester, St. Cloud, Goodhue, Mankato, Baudette, Brainerd, Baxter, Chippewa County, the Iron Range and Angle Inlet.

And more Minnesota first responders are gaining access to a one-of-a-kind 5G experience on FirstNet. 5G connectivity on FirstNet is now available in Minneapolis. Public safety also has access to 5G+ (mmWave) spectrum in Minneapolis, including at the Target Center and U.S. Bank Stadium. And we’re continuing to roll out additional 5G connectivity for FirstNet in more communities nationwide.

But we aren’t stopping there. The FCC estimates that over 10,000 lives could be saved each year if public safety were able to reach callers just 1 minute faster. And since 80% of wireless calls take place indoors, in-building dedicated public safety connectivity is essential to public safety operations and overall safety. That’s why we are collaborating with Safer Building Coalition, the nation’s leading industry advocacy group focused on advancing policies, ideas, and technologies that ensure effective in-building communications capabilities for public safety personnel and the people they serve.

Why is this important? No connection is more important than one that could help save a life. Today, FirstNet is solving for common and long-standing communications challenges that first responders face – things like interoperability, network congestion and commercial network providers slowing public safety’s data connection. It’s giving them superior coverage for day-to-day response and life-saving missions. While commercial wireless offerings remain available to public safety, FirstNet continues to grow because it offers distinct advantages from those commercial offerings. FirstNet comes with unique features, functionality and dedicated spectrum when needed for the public safety community. That’s why public safety fought for their own, separate, dedicated platform, championing the vision that led to the creation of FirstNet.

How does this help bridge the digital divide? The FirstNet network expansion is one way we are helping ensure all of public safety – and the communities they serve – have access to critical connectivity to help meet the urgent challenges of today and tomorrow. We already cover more than 99% of the U.S. population today, but FirstNet is built for all public safety. That means every first responder – career or volunteer; federal, tribal, state or local; urban, suburban or rural.

Lincoln County students learn about downsides of Internet and Social media

I’m thankful to the Tyler Tribute for letting me reprint their article on a recent meeting of students and lawyers about some tricky areas of internet and social media use by teens. I have done similar training in the past so I know how important it is. Often kids are given a very powerful tool with limited safety training, which can be dangerous. Lincoln County schools (with help from the Blandin Foundation) found a way to open dialogue…

Three schools gather at RTR for assembly on downside of the internet

Tuesday, March 22 the students in grades 5-8 from RTR Public school, along with Hendricks Middle School and Lake Benton Elementary, met in the RTR Performing Arts Center for an informative meeting about

the downside of the internet. The presentation was given by Joshua Heggem and Kristi Hastings of Pemberton Law Firm, located in Fergus Falls. The presentation was brought to the schools by the efforts of the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Department.

Hastings has represented numerous school districts for many years and talked about social media, technology and mistakes that other kids have made on social media that in turn will hopefully be a good learning tool to

prevent kids making these mistakes themselves.

This presentation came about as a response to the amount of cases they were seeing coming in, “When we started this, it came about because we were seeing so many disciplinary things coming across our desks. Expulsions and other serious consequences; Three kids getting kicked out of sports they love playing because of mistakes they were making on social media,” Hastings told the group. They came up with this presentation with a desire to get ahead of the rise they were seeing in cases based around social media, bullying using social media, and technology use and the dangers it presents.

Statistically, 97% of all kids in grades 5-8 are using social media of some sort every day. “I’m a huge fan of social media myself, so you’re not going to hear that it’s bad or that you shouldn’t use it at all because there are so many positive things that come with social media—the ability to connect with people all over the world, communicate with family and friends—these are all positive things that prior generations didn’t have.”

Hastings went on, “We are just focusing on the downside of social media and unfortunately, as lawyers, we see a lot of it.” Joshua Heggem shared a story of how quickly things can happen when social media is involved. “An instance I had once; a group of seventh graders who had made a Snapchat group for their class—they made it with the intent of bullying one classmate.

During these hateful comments aimed at the student, someone said they were going to put a hit out on the classmate. Within hours there were sheriffs at the school interrogating kids for terroristic threats.” Heggem recanted to the kids, “Some kids were charged with crimes; kids were getting suspended. The kid who made the threat, I believe was expelled from school.” Heggem made it clear that expulsion comes with heavy consequences, “That means you can’t set foot on school grounds, you can’t play any sports, you can’t even go to a sporting event, you can’t go to the football field.” Along with all those who faced charges and school consequences, there were also kids that needed mental health services after the ordeal, including the child who had been the subject of the bullying. Even if the kid who said the threat never meant it, the words were still out there on social media and have to be taken seriously. Heggem made it clear to the kids that things can’t be taken back once said on social media no matter how safe or secure you think it is. Hastings touched on things that don’t happen on school grounds; for instance, a kid initiating a fight at the park across the street of the school as opposed to on school grounds. “These school rules follow you when you are at a school sponsored event, when you’re here on school grounds, but also when you do things that negatively impact other kids’ ability to come here and learn,” Hastings explained.

This brought them to the next topic, “We do have a state law here in Minnesota that prohibits bullying of your classmates; things that are intimidating, threatening, abusive or harmful,” Hastings touched on. “Any bullying

that you carry over online is treated the same way. So, for instance, if you push a kid into a locker, that is the equivalent of bullying online and will carry the same punishment.”

They brought up “group thought” which is the concept that someone comes up with an idea and the group just goes along with it. “It happens a lot in our school cultures and climates because kids have not fully developed. Often times, the ability to say no I’m not interested in that idea/activity,” Hastings explained. An example used was one of another small school in Oakes, North Dakota which gained national news recognition.

“They had a tradition there of making a straw man before the homecoming game every year. So they would make the straw man and then burn it in a bonfire and then play their game,” Hastings told the kids. “A couple of

years ago, someone in a group came up with an idea—let’s make a noose and hang the straw man. Then someone comes up with the idea to put a jersey on it. Well, they put the number of the only player that is a person of color for the other team on the jersey. Someone in the group took a video of it, probably shared it with their close friends and contacts and someone recognized it was quite racist and it made national headlines. What it does, is it makes the world look at your school and question who lives there, what are they teaching here,” Hastings further explained to the kids.

The presentation touched on many topics that kids today are coming in contact with more and more every day—things like sending/receiving nude photos being a technical form of child pornography which is punishable by law, sharing pictures of your friends as a joke from the locker room is a form of privacy invasion and punishable by law. All the topics were relevant and appropriate.

Another presentation was given for the high school grades 9-12, after the middle school was done as it is a topic of discussion worth having from middle school on.

Broadband fuels house-to-house public security cameras

GCN reports

To help police solve crimes and give homeowners an added sense of security, an Illinois county will devote $40,000 of its American Rescue Plan funds to purchasing doorbell cameras for the community.

Winnebago County will become the latest district to turn to Amazon’s Ring doorbell cameras to “get out in front of crime, and prevent it … instead of always just following it up,” Public Safety Chairman Burt Gerl told WIFR News. Eventually, the county plans to target areas with higher crime rates, he said.

The county also expects to make use of Ring’s public safety app, Neighbors. Through the app, residents can connect with local law enforcement to share real-time information about suspicious activity.

I have a lot of reactions to this initiative. With my Blandin on Broadband hat on, this is a great way to help keep a community safe for neighborhoods that can afford the hardware and have reliable, sufficient broadband. We learned the power of video with the murder of George Floyd. I know in my neighborhood people post footage of happening on their doorsteps from stolen packages to vandalism. It does help get convictions and packages returned.

But I do have some concerns with privacy and who has access to videos when, why and how. Sounds like I’m not alone…

Law enforcement agencies can see videos posted to the Neighbors app or directly request video from residents in the area of an active investigation. Police must reference a relevant case in the request, each request must specify a limited time frame and area and residents can decide how much information they are willing to share. Authorities are not given direct access to residents’ devices, videos, location or any personally identifiable information.

Still, Amazon’s partnerships with law enforcement agencies, especially in relation to community surveillance, have drawn concerns from some civil liberties advocates.

AT&T and Verizon Agree to New Delay of 5G Rollout

As someone who is currently on a road trip to California with plans to fly home, I am pleased to share a recap from Benton

AT&T and Verizon agreed to delay their rollout of a new 5G service for two weeks, after the Federal Aviation Administration requested they do so in an effort to mitigate potential interference with airplane safety systems. At Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg’s request, “we have voluntarily agreed to one additional two-week delay,” an AT&T spokesperson said. “We know aviation safety and 5G can co-exist and we are confident further collaboration and technical assessment will allay any issues.” The sudden turn of events came as the Federal Aviation Administration was preparing to soon issue flight restrictions that US airlines worried would significantly disrupt air-travel and cargo shipments around the country. Airlines for America, which represents major passenger and cargo carriers, had planned to ask a federal court to block the 5G rollout slated for Jan 5. The trade group held off once both telecom carriers agreed to further delay their 5G rollout until Jan. 19.

To be fair my concern is more related to my fear of flying that knowing anything about the real risk of 5G.

Schools have active shooter response, fire response, earthquake response… they need cybersecurity response

SC Magazine reports good news for some schools (none in MN) that have “won” cybersecurity support from IBM. In the process of inviting schools to apply for support, IBM gathered some disturbing information on school cybersecurity budgets…

Indeed, 50% of the more than 250 school districts that applied for the grant said in their applications that they have less than $100,000 allocated annually toward cybersecurity. “And that’s for an entire school district so when you get down to it, the school budgets are just incredibly low compared to the threats that they face,” said Rossman. Additionally, more than 55% of applicants said their districts don’t provide any security training to staff members, while 40% said they have previously experienced a ransomware attack.

In fact, the Newhall School District, with 10 elementary schools and approximately 5900 students, learned of the grant program after experiencing its own ransomware attack last fall. Jeff Pelzel, superintendent, told SC Media he remembers coming into work on a Monday morning and finding himself unable to access certain systems.

And IBM saw the need to make resources available to a wider audience…

Fortunately, even the districts that applied but weren’t selected for the grant were still given access to some of IBM’s resources. “We’re going to have resources available on ibm.org for them to use,” said Rossman. These interactive offerings include ransomware assessments, and a video-based training module that designed to teach faculty members and students some basic cyber concepts. The builds on previous work on IBM’s part to host an education security assessment event for schools as well as virtual cyber range exercise that helped superintendents understand “what’s it like to experience a ransomware attack.”

They have a number of classes available online and aimed for students 14 years and older.

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.

FirstNet Network Expands Across Minnesota to Beltrami, Lake, Pine and Lake of the Woods Counties

AT&T reports

Minnesota’s first responders are getting a major boost in their wireless communications with the addition of new, purpose-built FirstNet cell sites and other network enhancements. This new infrastructure is part of the FirstNet network expansion taking place across the state, bringing increased coverage, capacity and capabilities for public safety.

The five new sites – located across northern Minnesota in the counties of Beltrami, Lake, Pine and Lake of the Woods – are part of the FirstNet network expansion taking place across the state, bringing increased coverage, capacity and capabilities for public safety. The remote sites located near Blackduck, Grygla, Isabella, Finlayson and Williams Counties were identified by state and public safety stakeholders as priority locations for increased network coverage and capacity to better support emergency communications.

“Minnesota’s first responders deserve reliable coverage across the state to help them effectively and efficiently address incidents. And with FirstNet, that’s exactly what they’re getting,” said Paul, Weirtz, president, AT&T Minnesota. “We couldn’t be more proud to support the public safety mission and bring the state’s first responders – and residents – greater access to the connectivity they need to do their jobs. Working with public safety, we’ve made FirstNet nimble, adaptable and ready to scale for even the most severe situations as we’re seeing currently with COVID-19.”

FirstNet is the only nationwide, high-speed broadband communications platform dedicated to and purpose-built for America’s first responders and the extended public safety community. It’s built with AT&T* in a public-private partnership with the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet Authority) – an independent agency within the federal government.

That’s why AT&T has a responsibility unlike any other network provider. And unlike commercial networks, FirstNet provides real, dedicated mobile broadband when needed with always-on priority and preemption for first responders. This helps ensure Minnesota first responders connect to the critical information they need – every day and in every emergency.

Building upon AT&T’s current and planned investments in Minnesota, we’re actively extending the reach of FirstNet to give agencies large and small the reliable connectivity and modern communications tools they need. Currently well ahead of schedule, the FirstNet build has already brought Minnesota first responders:

  • Purpose-built network enhancements New FirstNet cell sites in Minnesota – located near Zerkel and Graceville – have also launched. These sites were identified by state and public safety stakeholders as priority locations. With FirstNet, it’s about where first responders need connectivity. That’s what is driving our FirstNet build. These sites were constructed using Band 14 spectrum, as well as AT&T commercial spectrum. Band 14 is nationwide, high quality spectrum set aside by the government specifically for FirstNet. Band 14 has also been added on more than 450 existing sites across Minnesota as part of the initial FirstNet build, including markets such as the Twin Cities, Duluth, Rochester, the Iron Range, St. Cloud and the Baxter/Brainerd area.
  • Reaching Rural Minnesota – FirstNet is built for all public safety. That means everyfirst responder in the country – career or volunteer; federal, tribal, state or local; urban, suburban or rural. That’s why connecting remote parts of America is one of our top priorities. We’re collaborating with rural network providers to help build out additional LTE coverage and extend FirstNet’s reach in rural and tribal communities.
  • Public safety-specific advanced capabilities – FirstNet is the only nationwide platform that gives first responders entire communication ecosystem of unique benefits including mission-centric devices, certified applications and always-on, 24-hours-a-day priority and preemption across voice and data. This is like giving public safety communications the “lights and sirens” treatment so that they stay connected, no matter the emergency.
  • Unparalleled emergency support – Minnesota agencies on FirstNet also have 24/7 access to a nationwide fleet of 76 land-based and airborne deployable network assets. These portable cell sites can either be deployed for planned events or in emergenciesat no additional charge. FirstNet Response Operations – led by a group of former first responders – guides the deployment of the FirstNet deployable assets based on the needs of public safety.
  • Free smartphones for life for public safety agencies – We’ve also expanded the benefits of FirstNet for Minnesota agencies – spanning law enforcement, fire, EMS, healthcare, hospital emergency departments, emergency management and 9-1-1 operations. Now, they can stay up-to-date with free smartphones for lifeat no additional cost on their FirstNet Mobile—Unlimited plans.1 This means first responders across agencies of all sizes will have affordable access to their network for decades to come.

The COVID-19 health crisis illustrates precisely why public safety fought for the creation of FirstNet. Where public safety goes, we go. We’ve answered the call for tornadoes, hurricanes, wildfires, floods and other natural disasters. But with COVID-19, it is like experiencing a perpetual emergency in every community across the country. Public safety’s network is being tested in a completely new way, and it’s hitting the mark.

“FirstNet is a dedicated broadband platform for public safety, by public safety,” said FirstNet Authority CEO Edward Parkinson. “We worked hand-in-hand with Minnesota’s public safety community to understand their needs for the network. And these network enhancements are a prime example of how that input and feedback is becoming reality. We look forward to supporting Minnesota’s first responders’ use of FirstNet to help them save lives and protect communities.”

In addition to further elevating public safety’s connected experience in support of their emergency response, this new infrastructure will also help improve the overall coverage experience for AT&T wireless customers in the area. Residents, visitors and businesses can take advantage of the AT&T spectrum bands, as well as Band 14 when additional capacity is available.

For more about the value FirstNet is bringing to public safety, check out FirstNet.com.

Broadband outages in Southern Minnesota yesterday (Jan 6, 2021): the case for redundancy

Yesterday was a strange day with what I heard one reporter call the “tumult” at the US Capitol. Here in St Paul, that was accompanied with some strange technology false alarms. At 1pm, we had the monthly testing of emergency sirens. Ill-timed but most of us remembered before going too grey. Then an amber alert later in the afternoon hit everyone’s phone and made us jump. (The lost child has been recovered.) However in other parts of the state, technology was failing in a bigger way.

Apparently there was a fiber backbone fiber cut between MN and WI that impacted a number of areas including Mazomanie, WI and Duluth, MN. A discussion on the Outages discussion list details what happened. Sounds like the cut happened while someone was doing underground utility work. Customers experienced issues and reported them. Technicians found and fixed the problem but it took a few hours. The discussion happens over a 6-hour space of time, which might indicate that was likely the (worst case) extent of the outage.

Stuff happens and it takes a minute to fix stuff; this is not a condemnation of any provider. Rather, I think this this makes the case for redundancy. A lot happened in our world from 1pm to 7pm yesterday – can you imagine losing connectivity from that time? Politics, security, safety are foremost in our minds this month – I just wanted to remind folks of the role technology plans in keeping informed and being able to communicate and engage.

Internet outage in Red Wing brings us a new form of “snow day”

RiverTowns.Net reports…

Call it a cable day instead of a snow day late start. Shortly before 8 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 5, [Red Wings School]Superintendent Karsten Anderson called for classes to start at least two hours late because one of the community’s two internet companies suffered a line break.

Hiawatha Broadband’s outage reportedly involves a portion of southeastern Minnesota.

“As a result of that outage, many students and staff members do not have access to the internet or to the school learning platform,” Anderson said.

The disruption affects classes for all K-12 students, who are in full distance learning, regardless of whether they still have internet access.

At 9:45 a.m., he issued a second stating that the internet had been restored. K-6 students could log in at 9:50 a.m. High School students were notified how their four-block schedule was revised.

On the one hand this is a fun story on how “snow days” may not be entirely gone. And if you’ve grown up in a cold climate, you probably have a place in your heart for snow days. One the other hand, this is a reminder of how important secure, reliable broadband is at every level. If you’re Internet went out today – what could your family do and not do. The list is different since the pandemic and I think that list is changed permanently.

Was your internet down or spotty last Sunday (Aug 30)?

I had several friends asking me about their Internet access Sunday morning. I was able to find the initial Tweet from CenturyLink at the time. I was hoping there’d be more details available later. [Added 5pm – someone sent me a great description and I’ve added it in the comments below. Thanks David Farmer!] It looks like we have confirmation but not much in terms of how it happened or could be prevented. Gizmodo reports…

Widespread internet outages knocked down Cloudflare, the PlayStation Network, Xbox Live, Amazon, Hulu, and a slew of other sites on Sunday morning, and it’s apparently all because of a single internet service provider: CenturyLink.

CenturyLink Tweeted about the problem…

CenturyLink confirmed on Twitter that its technicians were working to fix an IP outage, which was resolved shortly before noon.

“We are able to confirm that all services impacted by today’s IP outage have been restored. We understand how important these services are to our customers, and we sincerely apologize for the impact this outage caused,” the company tweeted.

EVENT July 15: Cyberinfrastructure: Moving Beyond Broadband at HBCUs and TCUs

From the folks at BroadbandUSA…

Topic: Cyberinfrastructure: Moving Beyond Broadband at HBCUs and TCUs

Date:   Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Time:  2:00 to 3:30 p.m. ET

Overview: Cyberinfrastructure differs from traditional web and broadband access in its focus and magnitude. The high-performance computing and networking resources of cyberinfrastructure enables educators, scientists and students opportunities to create and collaborate in entirely new ways—experiencing processes and results even if the technologies and data sets are thousands of miles away.  Many institutions of higher education are engaged in this new kind of scholarly inquiry and education, empowering their communities to innovate and to revolutionize what they do, how they do it, and who participates.   Broadband, though necessary, is not sufficient for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs) to be competitive in the 21st Century.   Please join BroadbandUSA’s webinar on July 15, 2020 to hear from panelists who will highlight the cyberinfrastructure at HBCUs and TCUs, as well as the importance of partnerships with national organizations such as Internet2 and EDUCAUSE in achieving the common goals of diversity and inclusion.

Please note: This webinar will run from 2:00 to 3:30 EDT.

Speakers:

  • Jason Arviso, Director of IT, Navajo Technical University
  • Curtis Bradlee, Interim Director of University Computing and Information Technology Systems (UCITS), South Carolina State University
  • Deborah F. Dent, CIO, Division of Information Technology, Jackson State University
  • Al Kuslikis, American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC)

Moderators:

 

  • Dr. Francine Alkisswani, Broadband Communication Specialist, NTIA
  • Dr. Tonya Smith-Jackson, Senior Vice Provost for Academic Affairs, NC A&T


Please pre-register for the webinar using this registration link.   After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

Want to access past Practical Broadband Conversations webinars? Visit our webinar archives for past presentations, transcripts and audio recordings.

______________________________________________________________________________

Who are we?

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), part of the U.S. Department of Commerce, is the principal advisor to the administration on telecommunications and information policy issues.  NTIA, through its BroadbandUSA program, works to further the deployment and use of broadband and other technologies across America.

What does BroadbandUSA do?

BroadbandUSA serves as a trusted and neutral strategic advisor, working with federal, state and local government, community, and industry leaders working to advance smart community and broadband public-private partnerships designed to attract new employers, create quality jobs, improve educational opportunities, increase health outcomes and advance public safety.  Check out the BroadbandUSA website for more information.

Turns out T-Mobile had IP traffic issues that slowed service on Monday (June 15)

I mentioned network outages on Monday when I wasn’t able to reach either of my parents, who are both on T-Mobile. Fierce Wireless reports on what happened…

The outages, which started June 15 just after 12 p.m. ET and continued for about 13 hours, were an “IP traffic related issue” that “created significant capacity issues in the network core throughout the day,” according to an update around midnight from T-Mobile CEO Mike Sievert.

Looks like voice and text were down, but not data…

While voice and texting were down, Sievert said data services were working throughout the day, so customers could use apps and services like FaceTime, iMessage, Google Meet, Zoom, and Skype to reach people.

Still, the duration of the T-Mobile’s outage was not insignificant. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai called the outage “unacceptable” and said the agency is launching an investigation.

And it looks like T-Mobile was the issue…

There were complaints that AT&T and Verizon customers were also experiencing problems with service, but both carriers confirmed Monday that their respective networks were working normally. A Verizon spokesperson at the time said it was aware another carrier was having network issues and “calls to and from that carrier may receive an error message.”

Networks down all over the US June 15

I wondered why my dad was ignoring me. Then I tried to call my mom and couldn’t get through.  I had to remember my childhood home phone number, which thankfully worked. My parents are OK.

Their networks are not. I looked to find one article that spoke to issues with several carriers. WCVB (ABC TV out of Boston I think) reports…

If you’re having problems with your cell phone, it seems you’re not alone. Customers of multiple cell phone carriers are reporting widespread outages.

According to Downdetector, a website that tracks outage reports, the outage is impacting customers of T-Mobile, Metro by T-Mobile, AT&T and Verizon.

“Our engineers are working to resolve a voice and data issue that has been affecting customers around the country,” Neville Ray, T-Mobile’s president of technology tweeted. “We’re sorry for the inconvenience and hope to have this fixed shortly.”

In a statement to CNET, a spokesperson from Verizon said, “Verizon’s network is performing well. We’re aware that another carrier is having network issues. Calls to and from that carrier may receive an error message.”

AT&T says their network is working properly, but users of the carrier continue to report problems with their devices.

“Our network is operating normally, but it’s possible some customers are unable to reach people on other carriers’ networks,” AT&T said on Twitter.

My limited experience pointed to T-Mobile but again my experience is very limited. No cause was listed here. I will keep an eye out. It’s been such a strange year, I don’t even dare to imagine what’s going on.

I checked out Downdetector. They track downtime for providers and websites. The graphic of their homepage take at 6:17pm CST says it all. Lots of places experiencing problems still – a few seem to be on the mend…

Cyberattacks hitting Minnesota and local governments

The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports of cyberattacks in Minnesota…

Hackers forced the Minnesota Senate website offline Tuesday, the latest in a series of cyberattacks targeting state and local computer systems. …

Ludeman said the security breach came from the same hacker group that targeted 10 state agencies, including the governor’s office, in recent days.

It’s unknown whether the attacks are related to demonstrations and unrest sparked by the death of George Floyd. But Gov. Tim Walz said at a weekend news conference that “a very sophisticated denial-of-service attack on all state computers was executed” as the state readied its response to riots on Saturday.

Such denial-of-service attacks send high levels of external traffic to a website’s servers, causing the site to freeze or crash.

“That’s not somebody sitting in their basement,” Walz said at the time.

City of Minneapolis websites also experienced outages due to a cyberattack early Thursday morning. A city spokeswoman said there was no evidence of a data breach and that most of the sites were back online by 9 a.m. that day.

It reinforces an important layer to digital inclusion – cybersecurity. Back in 2012 there was a national push (Stop Think Connect) to promote and encourage cybersecurity. I know the MN Broadband Task Force learned about cybersecurity in 2018 (and earlier). And there were discussions and tips shared even at the onset of the COVID move to work at home – but I think people are probably ready for a more detailed discussion and expecting more coverage especially given the tumultuous times and Minneapolis coverages in the news.

Broadband is transforming school thanks to groups like ECMECC that support the network

Ed Scoop reports on digital learning based on a recent webinar hosted by edWeb.net

Digital learning not only plays a crucial role in preparing today’s students for the jobs of tomorrow, it also has an important role in providing more equitable access to education, especially in smaller and remote school districts.

The webinar featured Minnesota’s own Marc Johnson who spoke about the role for an organization such as ECMECC

Marc Johnson, executive director of the East Central Minnesota Educational Cable Cooperative, who joined Fox on the webinar, said Minnesota has 18 regional networks, most of which now use leased fiber-optic networks. This provides the state with a scalable infrastructure, he said, and by monitoring disruptions and usage levels, administrators can buy additional bandwidth to accommodate future growth.

The ECMECC staff provides instructional technology support for districts, which is especially important for smaller ones that may not have full-time tech support people of their own. The staff also manage the network’s shared firewall and other security features that help to prevent cyberattacks. A data center, meanwhile, provides off-site storage and backup.

Moving forward, Johnson and his team will be facilitating schools’ implementation of 1:1 device initiatives, and the introduction of more 21st century digital courses. Districts can make their own through a process he called “curriculum adaptation,” rather than curriculum adoption.

A key aspect of this type of teaching and learning is the increased use of interactive video for online field trips or other activities. Examples include the opportunity for high school students taking health classes to observe and interact with medical personnel as they perform procedures, or observe a musician in a distant city teaching classes and leading rehearsals.

This type of distance learning can be especially valuable for smaller rural districts, but also for underfunded districts in urban areas that may not have the resources to send students to other parts of the city.