The Rains County, TX Broadband Team has completed its community technology assessment. The results of the assessment can be found by clicking the symbol for each of the sections below. The Solutions sector includes recommended actions the community can implement to improve the broadband and technology ecosystem at a local level. It should be noted that much of the assessment was conducted before or at the beginning of the global COVID-19 pandemic. This worldwide event likely impacted many of the metrics included in this assessment.
Broadband access refers to the infrastructure that enables a high-speed internet connection. There are two primary types of broadband connections: fixed and mobile.
Fixed broadband is delivered to a user via several technology platforms such as cable, digital subscriber line (DSL) over phone lines, fiber optics, and fixed wireless. Fixed broadband is designed for stationary use at a fixed location such as a home, business, or institution. From one location, however, fixed broadband service is often broadcast as a Wi-Fi network to connect nearby devices.
The map below shows where broadband service is available in the community.
Perform an analysis of unserved areas to understand local assets and any barriers to broadband deployment. The local team should solicit feedback from residents of the unserved territory on their demand.
Determine the reasons why some areas of the community remain unserved, determine the feasibility of deploying various Internet systems in the defined area, and generate a business case for deployment.
Action 1 - Field Validation: Conduct onsite visual assessments of the defined geographic areas unserved with broadband coverage. The assessment determines the feasibility of deploying various internet systems in a defined area.
Action 2 - Gather site specific information required for (i) determining use of existing infrastructure, (ii) designing wired and wireless internet system using these assets, and (iii) expanding the broadband coverage in the defined area.
Action 3 - Community Broadband Survey: Use the results of the Residential Technology Survey to identify pockets of demand in areas without service. Survey results can also provide information on currently adopted speeds and costs. Stakeholders can also elect to perform a door-to-door survey of residents who live in neighborhoods in the unserved area to determine exact need, or in communities where more residential survey data is needed.
Action 4 - Market Analysis: A market analysis should also be performed to identify potential broadband providers, understand potential service offerings, and respective rates.
Action 5 - Investment: Results of the studies should be analyzed and released to providers to inform a business case for expansion or upgrades.
Action 6 - Conversations: Community broadband team members should include broadband providers in discussions of access expansion. Providers may have expansion plans that communities may not be aware of, or may be expanding infrastructure due to federal commitments (e.g., Connect America Fund).
County and local units of government with high number of underserved households; Broadband providers; Residents and businesses
Guide to Federal funding for broadband projects: https://broadbandusa.ntia.doc.gov/resources/federal/federal-funding
Fiber to the Home Council toolkit for communities looking to expand broadband infrastructure: http://bit.ly/2d18QL6
Pure Broadband builds access through cooperation: http://bit.ly/2cCgzBk
Public-private partnerships take many forms, limited only by the imagination and legal framework in which the municipality operates. Some communities issue municipal bonds to fund construction of a network, which they lease to private carriers, with the lease payments covering the debt service. Others create non-profit organizations to develop networks in collaboration with private carriers or provide seed investment to jump start construction of networks that the private sector is unable to cost-justify on its own., A public-private partnership should not be simply seen as a method of financing. The strength of these partnerships is that each party brings something important to the table that the other doesn’t have or can’t easily acquire. The community can offer infrastructure (publicly owned building rooftops, light poles, towers, and other vertical assets for mounting infrastructure) for the deployment of a network, as well as committed anchor tenants. Private-sector partners bring network-building and operations experience.
Leverage existing community assets in partnership with private sector carriers to expand broadband network deployment.
Action 1 – Determine Priorities: Competition, enhanced service, equity and service to all, public control over infrastructure, risk avoidance, redundancy, etc.
Action 2 – Examine models of partnership:
- Model 1: Private Investment, Public Facilitation: Make available public assets like fiber and conduit, share geographic information systems data, streamline permitting and inspection processes, offer economic development incentives to attract private broadband investment
- Model 2: Private Execution, Public Funding: Identify revenue streams that can be directed to a private partner, issue RFP for private turnkey execution.
- Model 3: Shared Investment and Risk: Evaluate using assets to attract private investment, evaluate funding new assets to attract private investment, evaluate building new fiber assets to businesses and/or homes for leasing to private ISPs.
Action 3 – Understand key legal considerations for localities looking to build a broadband partnership: Review authority issues, understand the legal tools and instruments that could shape the partnership, negotiate the agreement.
Local units of government; Broadband providers; Community anchor institutions; Residents and businesses
Building rural broadband from the ground up: http://bit.ly/2dx4MBw
United States Department of Agriculture: http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/usdahom
BroadbandUSA’s Introduction to Effective Public-Private Partnerships: https://broadbandusa.ntia.doc.gov/sites/default/files/publication-pdfs/bbusa_effective_public_private_partnerships.pdf
For small businesses, an online presence and the use of social media are vital to stay competitive in the twenty-first century. A website and social media are not just for companies that have the experience, staff, or budget; any small business can tap into these resources. Training should be provided to small businesses regarding the use of websites and social media within that small business. Website topics should range from starting a basic website to more advanced topics such as e-commerce. Social media topics should include a variety of social media outlets including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, and LinkedIn., Broadband empowers small businesses to achieve operational scale more quickly by lowering start-up costs through faster business registration and improved access to customers, suppliers, and new markets. According to Connected Nation’s 2012 Jobs and Broadband Report, businesses that are using the Internet bring in approximately $300,000 more in median annual revenues than their unconnected.
Encourage small local businesses to develop websites and to use social media, e-commerce, and other advanced uses of broadband and technology.
Action 1 – Work with the local chamber of commerce and/or libraries to expand existing programs that promote e-commerce, such as free websites and social media development, within the small businesses of the community.
Action 2 – Partner with providers to sponsor workshops. (ISPs may be willing to sponsor events since small-business workshops will likely lead to increases broadband adoption and use).
Action 3 – Identify regional and community partners with resources and expertise to assist the community in producing “free” website and social media workshops.
Action 4 – Schedule workshops and advertise classes via local media.
Chamber of commerce/economic development organization; Libraries; Community College; Broadband providers; IT/Technology organizations; Local SCORE representatives
On-Site Technology Training for Small, Rural Michigan Businesses: https://bit.ly/2Yh4zvL
The Importance of Tech for Small Businesses: https://bit.ly/2zL9Lha
Revenue Trends for Small Businesses: https://bit.ly/35jYBLQ
Google Helps Businesses Get Online with Free Resources: https://bit.ly/2VPbpa0
Boosting Business with an Online Presence: https://bit.ly/3aVxLuF
Building E-Commerce in Wright County, IA: https://bit.ly/2z2jPll
Teleworking offers significant benefits to employers, employees, self-employed individuals, and entrepreneurs. Benefits include business infrastructure savings, emissions reduction, and congestion management. Further, teleworking can help businesses and government agencies reduce real estate, energy, and other overhead costs. Research has shown that teleworking programs can increase an employer’s productivity and enable it to continue operating without skipping a beat in the face of a natural disaster or other emergency that might otherwise bring business to a halt. Teleworking allows employees to lower their commuting costs, and accommodates people with disabilities, the elderly, working mothers, and rural residents who may not be able to work outside the home. It is unlikely that all employees will be able to telework. A good way to start is to identify types of positions or job types that can be performed remotely and initiate a trial period and track results. Get feedback from all involved regarding the benefits and challenges and fine-tune as needed.
Promote or develop flexible efficient and effective work arrangements.
Action 1 – Establish a cross-functional project team, including labor representatives, employers, educators, and other stakeholders.
Action 2 – Conduct assessment of teleworker and organization technology needs.
Action 3 – Identify eligibility criteria to ensure that teleworkers are selected on an equitable basis using criteria such as suitability of tasks and employee performance.
Action 4 – Promote the establishment of teleworking pilot programs among local employers.
Action 5 – Develop a telework agreement template for use between teleworkers and their managers.
Action 6 – Track changes to the teleworking needs among businesses and workers, adjusting the telework promotion to best suit your community’s current and future needs.
Businesses; Business organizations, (e.g., chambers of commerce, economic development corporations, associations, etc.); Citizens and interest groups
Building a Telework Program: https://bit.ly/3bUaNWf
Teleworking Brings Jobs Home: https://bit.ly/2KST8SN
Job Opportunities via Digital Works Come to Cheboygan, MI: https://bit.ly/2So47YF
Publicly Operated Telework Facilities: An Economic Development Opportunity for Michigan’s Rural and Tourism-Oriented Communities: https://bit.ly/2YkoSID
Telemedicine (or telehealth) can help to address challenges associated with living in sparsely populated areas and having to travel long distances to seek medical care—particularly for patients with chronic illnesses. It also addresses the issue of the lack of medical specialists in remote areas by awarding access to specialists in major hospitals situated in other cities, states, or countries. While telemedicine can be delivered to patient homes, it can also be implemented in partnership with local clinics, libraries, churches, schools, or businesses that have the appropriate equipment and staff to manage it. The most critical steps in promoting telemedicine are ensuring that patients and medical professionals have access to broadband service, understanding the benefits and barriers of telemedicine, being aware of the technologies required for such a service, and understanding how to develop, deliver, use, and evaluate telemedicine services.
The goal of this initiative is to identify ways to deliver improved healthcare services to rural residents.
Action 1 - Create a working group to lead the initiative.
Action 2 - Identify the local benefits of and barriers to implementing telehealth programs among patients and healthcare providers.
Action 3 - Engage telehealth solutions providers and internet service providers to explore opportunities to addressing the identified barriers.
Action 4 - Identify telehealth funding opportunities.
Action 5 - Develop a plan for implementing the identified solutions and seek funding.
Action 6 - Engage the public to build awareness for new telehealth services and assess the impact of the serivces. Adjust the implementation plan accordingly.
Healthcare Providers, Internet Service Providers, Public Health Agencies, Community Service Organizations, Citizens
Seven Actions Providers Can Take to Launch Telemedicine Services Successfully: http://www.medialogic.com/health-care-marketing/blog/7-actions-providers-can-take-to-launch-telemedicine-services-successfully/
Online content and web-enabled course delivery can provide opportunities for learning beyond the traditional face-to-face course format found in many K-12 institutions. These applications can be further bolstered by providing students with their own internet-enabled devices. Advancements in technology and personal computing provide new opportunities for student engagement and learning. Implementing a 1:1 device program is not a light undertaking, and it requires the input and dedication of administrators, teachers, and students.
The goal of this initiative is to improve student learning through individualized devices with access to the internet.
Action 1 – Create your 1:1 vision and leadership team: A 1:1 program is not about the devices; rather, it’s about creating an environment where all students have greater access to learning resources. Planning teams should include a diverse array of stakeholders from the school including administrators, teachers, students, and others.
Action 2 – Research other implementations: Many schools have implemented 1:1 device programs across the country, some more successfully than others. Seek out examples from similar districts, including those in the same community.
Action 3 – Assess district readiness: There are a number of factors to consider including leadership, long-term funding, staff skillsets, training/professional development, enabling or hindering policies, device purchase vs. bring-your-own-device model, Internet connection and wireless capabilities, etc.
Action 4 – Hire a project manager and consult with experts: Topical and technical expertise could be beneficial to the project to bring outside perspective, experience, and knowledge of how to successfully implement the program.
Action 5 – Create a strategic plan: The strategic plan should outline the vision, research, and readiness work completed to date, and should also include goals and objectives, communications plans, finances, hardware and infrastructure, capacity building, benchmarking, and project timelines.
Action 6 – Develop a financial plan: A minimum five-year financial plan should be in place when implementation begins. Short and long-term funding should be considered as devices age, need maintenance and need replacing, and bandwidth increased.
Action 7 – Assess infrastructure needs: 1:1 device programs require robust infrastructure to support the connectivity of hundreds or thousands of new devices. Infrastructure issues include bandwidth, connectivity and access points, data systems, data management and storage, mobile device management, security and content filtering (if applicable), tech support and maintenance, etc.
Consider a pilot: Pilot programs help to demonstrate capabilities and help to work out bugs and test various solutions.
Action 8 – Ensure curriculum and pedagogy embrace technology: New technology brings new ways to deliver knowledge. Curriculum directors, teachers, and students should examine and research new ways to leverage student devices in and out of the classroom.
Action 9 – Develop/participate in collaborative and ongoing professional development: New technology and curriculum requires new and ongoing professional development for instructors. Professional development should follow a cycle of learning, discussing, testing, and adjusting until new curriculum and methods work for students.
K-12 Schools, Parents and Students, Internet Service Providers, Community Service Organizations, Libraries
One-to-One Institute’s Project RED: https://www.k12blueprint.com/content/one-one-institute-0
Tips, Tricks, and Techniques for Your One-to-One Classroom: https://www.weareteachers.com/41-tips-tricks-techniques-11-classroom/
Five Steps for Implementing a Successful 1:1 Environment: https://www.edutopia.org/blog/one-to-one-environment-andrew-marcinek