T-Mobile Fined $40 Million After Tricking Rural Customers With ‘False Ring Tones’

Gizmodo reports…

T-Mobile has admitted it engaging in misleading calling practices with its rural customers, and as part of an FCC settlement, is coughing up $40 million.

What exactly was T-Mobile trying to get away with? At issue is the practice of injecting false ring tones, causing rural customers to think their calls had already connected. Practically, that means while T-Mobile was trying to establish a link between parties—sometimes using additional local carriers for some of these more secluded customers—the phone was ringing in the earpiece of the caller, even though the callee might have never gotten a single ring.

A bill relating to Minnesota ISPs activities (HF4411) is introduced

According to the April 16th Journal of the House

Hilstrom introduced:

H.F. No. 4411, A bill for an act relating to broadband service; prohibiting certain activities by Internet service providers serving Minnesota customers and those under contract to the state or political subdivisions; proposing coding for new law in Minnesota Statutes, chapters 16C; 325F.

The bill was read for the first time and referred to the Committee on Commerce and Regulatory Reform.

USDA Seeks Applicants for Rural Broadband Access Loans

As announced by the Benton Foundation…

The Rural Utilities Service (RUS), an Agency of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), announces that it is accepting applications for fiscal year (FY) 2018 for the Rural Broadband Access Loans and Loan Guarantees Program (the Broadband Program). Applications will be processed on a first come, first served basis. Every ninety (90) days, RUS will conduct an evaluation of the submitted applications.

Here’s more info from the Federal Register...

SUMMARY: The Rural Utilities Service (RUS), an Agency of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA),
announces that it is accepting applications for fiscal year (FY) 2018 for the Rural Broadband Access Loans and
Loan Guarantees Program (the Broadband Program). RUS will publish on its website https://www.rd.usda.gov/newsroom/notices-solicitationapplications-nosas  
the amount of funding received through the final
appropriations act.
Since the passage of the Agricultural Act of 2014 (2014 Farm Bill), RUS has only accepted applications according to discrete application windows as identified in notices published in the Federal Register. However, based on a
review of the applications submitted since the implementation of the 2014 Farm Bill, RUS has determined that the use of application windows has not
effectively supported the Agency’s mission to finance improved broadband service in rural areas. As a result, RUS is accepting applications on a rolling basis throughout FY 2018. This will give RUS the ability to request additional
information and modifications to a submitted application whenever necessary.
Applications will be processed on a first come, first served basis. Every ninety (90) days, RUS will conduct an
evaluation of the submitted applications. During the evaluation period, applications will be ranked
based on the percentage of unserved households that the applicant proposes to serve. RUS anticipates that it will
conduct at least two evaluation periods for FY 2018. Because the Agency will receive applications throughout the
fiscal year, subsequent evaluation periods can alter the ranking of applications.
In addition to announcing its acceptance of FY 2018 applications, RUS revises the minimum and
maximum amounts for broadband loans for the fiscal year.
DATES: Applications under this NOSA will be accepted immediately through September 30, 2018. RUS will process
loan applications as they are received.

In 10 years the digital economy grew 5.6% compared to overall economic growth of 1.5%

The Bureau of Economic Analysis just released a report – an inaugural report on the digital economy – Defining and Measuring the Digital Economy.

The working paper set out to do a few things – define the digital economy, measure it and create conversations to move measurement and research forward.

Here are some of the economic highlights from the report:

  • Digital economy real value added grew at an average annual rate of 5.6 percent, outpacing the average annual rate of growth for the overall economy of 1.5 percent
  • In 2016, digital economy real (inflation‐ adjusted) value added totaled $1,302.2 billion, 82.2 percent larger than it was in 2005.
  • During this economic recovery, prices for digital economy good and services decreased at an average annual rate of 0.4 percent (chart 8). Prices for all goods and services in the economy increased at an average annual rate of 1.5 percent.
  • Workers in the digital economy earned average annual compensation of $114,275 compared to the economy‐wide average of $66,498.

The report also set out to define the digital economy. There has been a push for a better way to measure the economic impact of broadband for at least a year. I think this is a good first step. Here’s a brief take on what they did..

Conceptually, a digital economy satellite account should include all goods and services related to the digital economy. However, the preliminary estimates presented here are based on goods and services that are primarily digital. There are numerous challenges to estimating the economic contribution of “partially‐digital” goods and services which are laid out in this report. These challenges are opportunities for future research to expand these early estimates into a complete digital economy satellite account.

They have included things like digital‐enabling infrastructure (hardware, networks) but not peer-to-peer economy such as Uber. So I think there are ways to improve on their definition – but they do too. In fact, they ask for feedback!

West Central Regional Roundtable on Broadband – providers, legislators and community leaders

Back at the regional tour of broadband discussion with Bill Coleman with a stop in Fergus Falls today to talk with the Mid-Minnesota Region. There were 50 people in the room including Rep Jeff Backer, Rep Paul Anderson, Rep Bud Nornes and representatives from Senators Klobuchar and Smith.

It was a good mix in the crowd with folks who knew policy, folks who knew technology and folks who knew they needed better broadband. It was interesting to hear what Otter Tail County has done to ensure that everyone in the county gets broadband in the future. They are working with providers, getting a view of what’s happening and likely to happen with a feasibility study (thanks to support from the Blandin Foundation).

We also got a quick update on policy from the legislators who attended.

Continue reading

Broadband and Cooperatives: A Winning Strategy for Minnesota

Last week a group met to talk about the potential role of cooperatives in bringing broadband to unserved rural areas. Minnesota has always done well with public private partnerships as a tool to expand broadband. There were several cooperative providers in the room, cooperatives who wanted to learn more and potential partners.

We started with a conversation on why Cooperatives and Broadband make sense

  • Members trust their cooperatives
  • Staff member have relationships with members
  • Customer/billing system in place
  • Fleet in place
  • Aerial infrastructure
  • Managed conservatively (cash available)
  • Allowance for longer payback periods
  • Relationship with financial institutions
  • Smart Grid and other internal communications
  • Cooperatives used to work toward reliability and growth. Growth has slowed, which may be an issue in being sustainable so maybe it’s a god time for electric to look at broadband especially if there are partnerships.

Then attendees heard from a number of people – here are the presentations below.

MN Office of Broadband Development Update Q1 2018

SmartGrid Broadband from Barry Electric

CAF II Case Study from Bill Coleman

Broadband Via Cooperatives – Electric and Telecom Partnerships from CNS

Two MN webinars:  Affordable PCs and Internet Access & Building Library-Adult Education-Workforce Partnerships

Looks like two great digital inclusion sessions from the Minnesota Department of Education….

Connect Your Community with Affordable PCs and Internet Access

Interested in helping connect members of your community with affordable personal computers, computer repair, and internet access? Learn how you can partner with PCs for People, an organization that works with businesses, government agencies, and residents to recycle and refurbish computers. Those computers are provided to low-income people, along with support for going online.

Madeline Tate, PCs for People’s Director of Partnerships and Programming, will give an overview of the organization, then describe how you can partner with them to benefit residents of your community. She also will tell us about an exciting pilot program with several rural libraries in Oklahoma.  We’ll have plenty of time for your questions, too.

The webinar will be Tuesday, January 30, from 11-noon Central Time. Follow this link to join the webinar; the call-in number is 1-888-742-5095, conference code 492 064 9083.

Building Library-Adult Education-Workforce Partnerships

Do you want to boost your community’s digital literacy efforts? Or maybe you want insight into how participating in digital literacy programming can translate into better job and educational opportunities for members of your community? Partnerships with library, adult education, and workforce colleagues could be the answer.

Please join us for a webinar with tips for getting the conversation started. The webinar will be Tuesday, February 6, 11-noon Central Time. Click here to access the webinar; the call-in number is 1-888-742-5095, conference code 492 064 9083.

This session will build on two years of Better Together sessions gatherings of library, adult education, and workforce development staff that focused on how collaborative digital literacy efforts can increase communities’ capacity to improve adult literacy and workforce outcomes for Minnesotans. Susan Wetenkamp-Brandt (Minnesota Literacy Council) and I will be the presenters.