Study to Improve Business Broadband

November 26, 2016 by Eva Artschwager

The New Mexico Department of Information Technology is currently undertaking a study in order to identify gaps and optimize plans for expanding broadband infrastructure to better meet the needs of New Mexico businesses. Columbia Telecommunications Corporation, a nationally recognized engineering and business consulting firm, has begun to review information about existing broadband in commercial corridors and to analyze information on the diversity of service providers in urban, suburban, and rural areas. The goal is to identify service gaps and make recommendations that will enable the state to plan actions for providing better access and speeds to business and commercial enterprises. A preliminary summary of the study, presented before the New Mexico Legislative Interim Committee on Science, Technology, and Telecommunications in October, “recommends levers for enabling and incenting investment” that will attract “private capital” for increasing “broadband deployment… in the state.”

For more about the divisions in broadband access, quality, and use between urban, suburban, and rural areas, refer to information about broadband in rural communities.

NM Legislative Session Considers Broadband

November 20, 2016 by Eva Artschwager

In Santa Fe, interim legislative committees are meeting this month to give preliminary review to key issues that will be under consideration when the 2017 legislative session convenes in January.  Amongst the topics under discussion is the expansion of broadband in New Mexico.

Convened under the guidance of Senate Majority Whip Michael Padilla, the Committee on Science, Technology, and Telecommunications began to hear information on the needs, deployment and specifications for extending broadband service in the state. Amongst the presentations heard by the committee members were: Dr. Dale Alverson and Terry Boulanger highlighting the need for high speed internet to enable new applications in telehealth and telemedicine; representatives from the Public Education Department discussing the need to provide all students, teachers and families with reliable high speed internet connections; comments from economic organizations on the importance of broadband service for business growth and employment expansion in the state; and updates from a panel of cable and telecommunications companies on the progress, barriers, and plans to extend broadband infrastructure most effectively.

Learn more about broadband in the New Mexico:

Training offers telework skills, placement

November 15, 2016 by Eva Artschwager

In community training centers in Ohio, Kentucky, Michigan and Texas, students are getting the digital skills training they need to be successfully placed in telework positions with one of over 60 vetted and reputable companies.  Through a program called Digital Works, centers are leveraging the rapid increase in telework positions over the past five years to advantage by offering focused training that prepares applicants for the specific tasks performed in call centers, customer service departments, and tech support divisions. In addition to lowering unemployment and upgrading participants’ technical skills, the centers enhance the profile of their local workforce, making their communities more attractive to higher tech, higher paying, companies.

The success of the program is attested to not only by its high rate of placement (80%) but by the high retention rate (91%) of its graduates.  These factors are due in part to the support Digital Works provides.  Participants work in an encouraging environment and are coached in soft skills such as interview strategies. According to one program observer, the mentorship provided by the program is a key factor in promoting student success.

Learn more about Digital Works.

Mobile hotspots bring digital equity to students

November 10, 2016 by Eva Artschwager

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The Summer 2016 issue of Ed Tech reports on several programs across the country that are leveraging mobile hot spot technology to increase access to broadband for all students within certain school districts.  Innovative programs in New York, Virginia, and Texas are using this technology to expand access to school internet networks on school buses, in student homes, and, in some cases, into the communities beyond.  By equipping buses with mobile wifi and providing free hotspot devices or SIM cards to eligible students, these districts are making it possible for all of their students to make full use of school digital learning resources, regardless of family income.

According to Keith Krueger, CEO of the Consortium for School Networking. “digital access in the home is now the most critical inequity” for students and schools across the country.  In many schools, especially those in more economically disadvantaged areas, hundreds of students may be without home internet access and thus unable to complete assignments or have access to learning resources.   This “homework gap” can lead to real disparities in performance between those students with broadband access at home and those without.   “Just as we wouldn’t tell a child whether or not they can have a textbook based on their address, we don’t think that that should be the case with their ability to access digital resources either,” says CIO Vincent Scheivert of the Albemarle Public Schools in Virginia.  By leveraging existing broadband networks provided through cell phone signals, mobile hotspots can bring full access to students without home broadband, thereby increasing their participation, improving their performance, and effectively closing the homework gap for students in their districts.

Learn more about these innovative programs.

Libraries loan out internet access with hotspots

November 3, 2016 by Eva Artschwager

During the past 10 years, book publishing and reading have moved into digital formats and become online activities. Libraries, long understood as institutions that centered on the printed book and its reading, were imagined to be on their way out. Yet in the digital age, in which books and information exist mostly in digital format, libraries have become more important to communities than ever before. Not only do they remain key local resources for information and data, now provided through a variety of platforms including digital; in many communities, they have also come to act as key, and sometimes sole, providers of access to the internet. In small towns, rural areas, and low-income regions, in which broadband connections may be unavailable or too costly to afford, the free connection that libraries offer gives residents their only opportunity for using email, completing homework assignments, searching on Google, or filling out online job applications.

Libraries are now expanding the access to broadband that that provide by checking out mobile hotspots, devices that allow patrons to connect to the internet from their homes. The hotspots, which utilize cell phone internet signals to connect to the internet, provide adequate broadband to allow individuals to run a small number of computing devices using the hotspot as a kind of “router.” This makes it possible for individuals in areas with cell coverage to complete online tasks outside of the library. Like the books they loan, libraries check out hotspots at no cost and lend them from one month to one year.

Learn more about the use of mobile hotspots by libraries:

Digital divide grows despite increase in uses

November 3, 2016 by Eva Artschwager

The use of broadband has expanded rapidly over the past five years. More and more people use the internet for work, commerce, and communication, as well as for a source of news, information and entertainment. The internet also helps people find employment, succeed in school, and keep in touch with family and friends.

Despite these changes, broadband adoption in the home has recently declined. Many still lack or are unable to afford this critical service, forming a digital divide that creates disadvantages for those without service.
Home broadband use has plateaued

This divide is especially critical in rural and low income areas, and is a pressing concern for many New Mexico communities.  According to the Intelligent Community Institute at Mississippi State University, the key indicators for the digital divide include low population density as well as socioeconomic factors such as education levels and income.  New Mexico high rural nature, high levels of poverty and low educational achievement, all contribute to the state’s large digital divide.  This is especially pronounced in counties that are most characterized by these factors, such as Catron, Guadalupe, Hidalgo, Luna, Quay, Sierra and Socorro County.

The White House 2016 report on the digital divide underscores the persistence of the digital divide with almost one third of households still lacking broadband service at home.  The good news is that recognition of these gaps has spurred an increase in funding for broadband service.  Other funding programs, such as   promise neighborhoods, bring advantages to neighborhoods committed to providing multi-layered systems of support for educational success for children within their communities.

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