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  • Guest: Johannes Bauer, Pierrette Dagg

  • Company: Michigan State University/Merit Network

  • The following transcript has been edited for length and readability. Listen to the entire discussion here on The Broadband Bunch

    Pete:

    Hello and welcome to another episode of the Broadband Bunch. Today we are joined by Johannes Bauer, Quello Chair for Media and Information Policy at Michigan State University. He’s joined by Pierrette Dagg, the Director of Marketing, Communications and Events at University of Michigan/Merit Network. In this episode, we dig into the homework gap and the latest research this team has produced around the digital divide. They share findings on the impact of digital access not only on grades, but also on the financial performance of students after school. We talk about the medium- and long-term impact of COVID on learning institutions and how they expect this crisis to affect policy in the future. We talk about the impact to telehealth and how that relates to this current crisis and access as well.

    Pete:

    It’s our second time having you on the show.  Thank you for coming back. The last time you and I spoke we were talking about the initiative that you had just kicked off around the Moonshot Initiative and some of the research and early pilot programs that you were doing there at Merit. To set some context, perhaps you can give us a little background on how that program is going and how that relates to what we’re going to be talking about today.

    Merit Network – Connecting Members to Broadband Policy, Education, Resources and Funding

    Pierrette:

    The Michigan Moonshot is an initiative that Merit Network started about a year and a half ago. Merit, if folks aren’t familiar, is the longest running research and education network in the United States. We provide network security and community services to all of the anchor institutions in the state of Michigan.

    Pierrette:

    As part of this, obviously a lack of broadband access is one thing that many of our residents in our state are facing right now. As a research and education network, Merit is poised to connect our members and our anchor institutions to policy and funding information, education and resources, and data and mapping information. That way they’re better poised to help serve their citizens connect.

    Pierrette:

    We feel like access and UC internet is really an integral component of everyday life in the 21st century. As things have changed, the digital information has really reshaped how everybody’s participating in all dimensions of society.

    Leveraging Broadband Access to Eliminate the Homework Gap

    Pierrette:

    It’s imperative that our community has leveraged broadband network access to eliminate the homework gap. Then in other fields, like education, socio-economic equality, telemedicine, public safety and economic development.

    Pierrette:

    Our main focus right now is the homework gap, as I said, because we’re seeing that at least 368,000 homes in Michigan, in our estimate, lack access to basic broadband. That really equates to about 27% of households within the state with school age children.

    Pierrette:

    As part of what we’ve been hoping to do, we developed Merit Network, in partnership with Johannes and Keith Hampton at the Quello Center at MSU and M-Lab data collection, we created this partnership. What we did is we chose a number of school districts to pilot a data collection project which was a citizen/scientist approach.

    Broadband Access Survey – Collecting Data to Address the Digital Divide

    Pierrette:

    The approach here consisted of a speed test and a survey, a take-home survey that students would take and what we hoped to do would be to better understand how students are accessing the internet, if they have connectivity at home. If there are any implications of having internet connectivity and not having internet connectivity on certain educational outcomes that Johannes will talk about.

    Pierrette:

    This pilot started in May of 2019 and very recently wrapped up. A lot of our educators have been talking about that digital divide for decades. Some progress has been made, but there are a lot of inequities that still exist.

    Pierrette:

    We’re hoping through this citizen/scientists study to get at least a snapshot into what that looks like for a lot of our school districts. One consistent challenge nationally is understanding where broadband is currently available and what speeds are available. Crowd source data, in this case, from our students can help improve the accuracy of that picture. That way we can identify areas where access or speeds is really underserved or if it’s overestimated.

    Pierrette:

    Our partners in higher education, K-12, and government are all working together to ensure that we can do everything we can to make sure that there are no students that are left behind in the 21st century economy. The very first step of that was to work with all these partners to develop this survey that way we have a more informed picture of the implications of broadband on student performance and the gaps there.

    Journey to Actionable Research and Solutions in Broadband Access

    Pete:

    Johannes, before we get into the research itself, you have a really interesting background. It would be helpful for our listeners to understand your journey. How did you end up here and what drew you to trying to solve this problem or this issue that we have in our communities?

    Johannes:

    My journey is longer than you might think. As you probably can hear from my accent, I didn’t grow up in Michigan. I came to the United States from Europe. When I was a PhD student, I was really interested in what the United States did to have such a superior telecommunications system.

    Johannes:

    I came here as a Ph.D. student and then I landed at Michigan State University eventually and now I have the privilege to run the Quello Center for Media and Information Policy, which is named after the late James Quello who was a long-serving FCC Commissioner and the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission for a short while.  When he retired, we established a center to do actionable research. We wanted to be a bridge, a two-way flow of information between people in practice, decision makers and communities and enterprises in government and nonprofit groups and the research community.

    Johannes:

    Our research tries to address current issues that are of particular importance, with hopefully actionable solutions. That’s how the partnership with Merit emerged and we’re really grateful. This is not the first time that the two of us have worked together. We looked at other things before.

    Accurate and More Complete Broadband Access Research

    Johannes:

    In this case, we also included school districts and other groups, other stakeholders, to really tune our research to the needs on the ground and then inform it with good methods and good scientific insights.

    Pete:

    The Merit team had started this process of trying to do this “citizen scientists” understanding of what was out there. Can you just give us an overview of this latest research, the homework gap findings in terms of what were you trying to uncover here that was a little bit deeper than what you’d see in the market already?

    Johannes:

    The whole research started with the frustration with the fact that our current maps that show where broadband is available are inaccurate. This is something that everybody knows and it was done because of… when the last crisis, 2008 actually was the source for those initiatives. At that time decisions had to be made very quickly and we knew the data was incomplete.

    Johannes:

    But, unfortunately, later on funding decisions were started to be tied to those incomplete data and as a result districts and locations that actually were not served and are not served well enough, did not get the funding and the support they needed to improve their access on the ground.

    Johannes:

    The discussion around those issues, which also were not new necessarily, as Pierrette mentioned before. There were two camps of people. On the one hand, folks who said this is mainly a sociodemographic issue. This is an issue related to race, gender, education and other issues. Then there were other people who said it’s purely an access and infrastructure issue.

    Disentangling the Digital Divide Problem – Sociodemographic and/or Access Infrastructure Issue

    Johannes:

    The way all these prior studies had been done, did not allow us to disentangle those issues. So, we together with Merit and the school districts designed this three-prong method that Pierrette already mentioned, that enabled us to collect a total of about 3,300 observations. Completely we identified data from 3,300 middle and high school students and linked that data with our speed tests that were done on the ground and standardized school tests.

    Johannes:

    By knowing this information, we, for the first time, could really identify what’s the contribution, if any, of lack of infrastructure? What’s the contribution, if any, of sociodemographic factors that are in play, and what other considerations do we have to look at?

    Pete:

    It’s interesting with this crisis that’s going on now, it’s almost this grassroots testing going on where there’s a lot of the proposed bandwidth rates, most people think that they’re paying for, and what they’re actually getting. So you kind of accidentally surfacing these gaps, but the approach you’ve taken is really interesting. To connect it not just to performance, but also the students’ performance.  Of the findings, was there anything that surprised you or challenged your own thinking?

    Johannes:

    There were quite a number of issues that surprised us. I must say, we all approached this with a relatively open mind. We thought probably schools would actually adapt their curriculum, their teaching style to what they know, the reality of the connectivity on the ground. To some degree they did, and they were very much aware of the fact that the students are poorly connected.

    Johannes:

    The clarity of the results and the consistency of the results surprised us all. Let me just highlight a few things. First of all, we found that in the debate between the infrastructure is the cause of the homework gap and sociodemographic is the cause of the homework gap, we found that actually both factors are in play so you can’t disentangle those completely.

    High Speed Broadband Access – Higher Homework Completion Rates, Higher Grades & Higher Future Incomes

    Johannes:

    There are some differences due to the socio-demographics, but independently of those, let’s say the education of the parents or the income of the parents, independently of those sociodemographic factors, infrastructure access, geography, always is a very important factor that is in play.

    Johannes:

    You couldn’t really overcome the homework gap with just addressing those socio-demographic issues. At the same time, you couldn’t fix it completely, although you could solve it to a large degree by solving the infrastructure issues.

    Johannes:

    The second factor that was surprising is how clearly those infrastructure factors affect outcome. Like others before, we saw that infrastructure availability affects homework completion rates, for example, among students.

    Johannes:

    But what was not as well known is that it also affects very clearly the grades of students. The link between homework and grades in the prior research was relatively ambiguous. There was about half that the researchers found that it has a positive affect if you complete your homework on your grade. Half found there’s a negative effect, and the balance is slightly positive.

    Johannes:

    But our research allows us to, very clearly, show that those with fast internet access have clearly higher grade point averages. In fact, the difference between those who have fast access and those who have no access, is about half a letter grade. Let’s say the difference between a B minus and a B. But in many cases could disqualify you from getting a scholarship, for example, to continuing education.

    Johannes:

    So, it’s a significant difference. The second thing we noticed very clearly is that there’s repercussions that go way beyond homework completion and grades. Students who have poor internet access typically also shape career interests that are not necessarily in areas that have higher income opportunities and future proof careers.

    Johannes:

    They have lower interest in STEM careers, for example. They have a lower interest in continuing post-secondary education after college. So as a result, one could say if you spin this further, they also have more limited income opportunities.

    Johannes:

    So now we see how lack of fast broadband access not only affects your grades in school, but also has these long-term repercussions that might affect your entire life trajectory and your earning opportunities. These compound affects are really, really significant and really concerning. 

    Fast Broadband Access and Dependency on Cell Phones Negatively Affect Student Outcomes

    Johannes:

    Then the last thing that I would like to mention here, which probably surprised us most, is that students who have smartphone internet access only. So they don’t use a smartphone as a hot spot at home, they don’t use a tablet or a notebook linked to the spots, but they just use their mobile phone, the smallest screen device.

    Johannes:

    Those students in all those dimensions that I mentioned do as poorly as students who have no internet access at all. That was something that some people had guessed. The data was not very conclusive, but I think our data shows very clearly that we cannot use cell phones alone without any complimentary devices as a substitute for good fast broadband access.

    Pierrette:

    Johannes, do you want to speculate on why you think that is?

    Johannes:

    There are multiple reasons for this. I must say that at this phase of our research, it’s mainly been by our statistical analysis. We were planning actually at this point in time to have additional quantitative interviews with people, but because of the coronavirus situation those have been postponed for a while.

    Johannes:

    But from the complimentary evidence that we have, there’s probably multiple reasons. One is that the screen size on the mobile phone is very limiting. Some types of tasks cannot be done. Just imagine you have to fill out a spreadsheet for your science class or something. It’s very difficult on a mobile phone.

    Johannes:

    Typing a text, let’s say a paper, very difficult on a mobile phone. In addition, mobile signals are not equally available. There’re many areas in Michigan, especially in the Upper Peninsula, where you have poor signal quality.  Finally, many mobile data plans may have data caps and so if that’s the only device that you have available to access the internet, you might run against the data cap very quickly.

    Pierrette:

    I think it’s also important to note too how pervasive this issue is with the main pilot communities that we surveyed, the pilot school district.  One finding that Johannes and the Quello Center’s report came out with is the number of students without access. In rural communities, students without access were about 47%; cities saw about 30% of students without access; and 23% in the suburbs. The problem is much more pervasive perhaps than a lot of people may imagine.

    Pete:

    It’s really fascinating being able to connect the importance of this infrastructure to long term earnings and career.  As well as the mobile phones, because you’re right, it does feel like a surrogate for a computer and that’s all a lot of kids are using. Really if its detrimental, parents need to rethink that as a strategy and help these guys get to the right tools or get to the right places.

    Johannes:

    May I chime in there. I wouldn’t say it’s detrimental, it’s just the device doesn’t provide sufficient versatility to complete the tasks that come with homework assignments are required. It’s more limited than we thought so far. It doesn’t enable all the, affords all the functions that you can have on a more complete let’s say on a laptop or a personal computer.

    Johannes:

    One of the important considerations here is that while our research focuses mainly on the homework gap, there’s other areas in our society where similar disadvantages exist and really will make a big difference going forward.

     

    Broadband Access Disadvantages Not Isolated to Homework Gap

    Johannes:

    For example, if you think about telehealth. Again, the COVID-19 crisis forces us to maybe use distance medicine and telehealth approaches. The same disadvantages that we see here in our student learning community, affect telehealth. I think one must not look at the homework gap as an isolated problem. Ideally, decision makers at the state level, at the federal level, would look at those different users of broadband through a holistic lens and look at all of them jointly.

    Johannes:

    Once you do this, you have a very, very strong case for making sure everybody is connected at the speed that is appropriate to the technology that we have. That probably means over time that we have to improve the quality of connectivity because our uses and our applications improve.

    Progress in Broadband Connectivity But Potential Still Relatively Untapped

    Johannes:

    Now, interestingly, this year is the 10th anniversary of the Initial Broadband Plan. The first one was drafted in 2010. One of the observations in those 10 years is that we made progress in connectivity in spite of the fact that significant gaps remain.

    Johannes:

    But the one area where we made the slowest progress in a sense, is that we haven’t really adapted to the opportunities of using those technologies to the best way. So now we struggle to learn quickly and scramble to figure out how we have a second mode of education available on short notice. And we’ll most likely have to have some longer-term discussions to make this happen.

    Johannes:

    But McKinsey, for example, did a study and argued that the United States only utilizes 18% of our digital potential. One of the discussions that I hope this will stimulate is a deeper dive into the question of how can we use digital tchnologies more effectively, more innovatively to address society’s issues and do it in a way that’s inclusive, doesn’t exclude people and is innovative and improves our lives going forward?

    Pete:

    At our core, what my company does is we help telecom providers provide services. A lot of the technological applications that we see are really internal in terms of optimizing operational processes and not so much externally helping improve service delivery and innovation.

    Pete:

    I wonder what the obstacles are in a lot of those things? If you think through the telehealth problem, and it’s the same thing with schools, it’s arguably the children that we have are much more technologically savvy than our parents and grandparents. They’re more comfortable in front of the screen and how to use a screen.

    Pete:

    But if the institutions that they’re connected to are lagging in that type of preparedness or innovative thinking, there’s really nothing for them to consume. They’re kind of gravitating towards Facebook and Instagram and all the things that are tailored towards their entertainment.

    Pete:

    I wonder how much hospital adoption of technology and the culture of that is an impediment to that telehealth issue? Whereas your x-rays are online, and you can get your MRIs and they have internal systems that they’ve invested in, but to the externalization of that thinking if that’s a problem or if it’s a policy issue? HIPAA has always been a big constraint around data and that type of thing. I don’t know if you have a perspective on that at all about which is… is it the horse or the cart that’s in the way?

    Aligning Broadband Technology & Innovation with All Stakeholders

    Johannes:

    Probably it’s a little of both, but probably the biggest obstacle in many of those issues, those big systemic-types of innovations is that you need to coordinate in a new way between the different stakeholders. The privacy concerns are very legitimate. Hospitals have optimized operations based on an older set of technologies to meet those. The doctors, their practices are different, there’s high transaction costs as economists would call it to move from one practice to another. You need to align the parts in ways that really are synergistic so you can take advantage of technology.

    Pete:

    If you look at the current crisis that we’re in with COVID and all schools have been forced to go to distance learning models. Many or most, regardless of affluency, were not prepared for that. Not that they didn’t have from a student side, but also from the parent and teaching side. Are schools ready for distance learning and are teachers ready for distance learning? If the material and the programs are not constructed so they can be consumed on multiple platforms or devices, then the institution itself is a limitation.

    Pete:

    I think that there are a lot of principals and superintendents and boards of education that are now faced with really thinking this through more clearly rather than just, okay, we have Google classroom and you can do everything through there. What’s your thought in terms of how this current crisis will impact distance learning specifically?

    Johannes:

    Schools are at various points in terms of how they use remote learning. In Michigan, the response has been relatively cautious and I’ll just state, for example, Indiana have e-learning days that have a lot of students in schools to use those online tools on an experimental basis.

    Equitable Online Learning Requires Resolving Broadband Access and High-Speed Connectivity

    Johannes:

    The current crisis has really arrived at a moment when schools are struggling to find it’s second mode, it’s second platform of teaching. In part for really articulated concerns. The schools do know that there is digital inequality in the territories and the mission to provide education to everybody equally makes them hesitate to move onto online teaching rather too quickly, unless the broadband access problem is taken care of.

    Johannes:

    Now actually what our findings show though is that even without moving your whole education program online there’s already significant disadvantages because digital technology has become more and more integrated into teaching and learning.

    Johannes:

    So now at a time when online learning might be a reasonable short term alternative, we realize that there’s a gap, we are not completely prepared to do so. My sense is this: in the short term, schools can mitigate the disadvantages, it’s possible. They could, for example, think about some hybrid form of learning. They combine more traditional types of remote learning, even sending copies of learning materials to students that are not connected. Combine those with online forms of learning.

    Johannes:

    In the medium and long run, I think this is a big wake up call to rethink how resilient we should structure our educational system. Resilience means that you can deliver a service despite adverse circumstances or despite disruptions that you didn’t anticipate.

    Johannes:

    I think not enough thought was given to how resilient the school system could be. In the medium and long run, we need to think way more about how we can train the teachers; how we can train the parents; how we can train the students to use online technology. We need to think more about the technology platforms that we need to have to support this type of learning.

    Johannes:

    They’ll be a long process. It will not happen overnight, but over time I guess there will be experiments that will be new innovative solutions to those issues. Online learning, unfortunately, is not equally suitable for everybody in students of different learning types. So somehow we’ll have to innovatively figure out how we can address those issues.

    Johannes:

    Before we can move in that direction, access is a big challenge, access needs to be established. Without access, none of these other things can really happen effectively.

    Pierrette:

    I’m actually working on a little bit of research in addition. I think Johannes kind of summed it up very well. The first and foremost issue that we need to address if we’re going to look to shifting to online learning, especially right now as an incident response plan or a resiliency plan is the connectivity.

    Not Just Broadband Access – Other Issues to Address

    Pierrette:

    But other things that we do need to look at absolutely are once you do have the connectivity, particularly in our historically marginalized, socio-economic challenged communities, you also have to look at the devices and the access to the devices of the students in the home.

    Pierrette:

    Just because you have access to the internet, do you have a device which will support that online learning? Then other components that we’re working on studying right now are as we are potentially looking at the shift to online learning, not only are the students capable or familiar, comfortable with learning online, but you have to think about the teachers, familiarity with teaching online.

    Pierrette:

    There may be some teachers who this will be an entirely new skill set for them. The path is there, or where the path is there, we may have some hurdles in that regard. Certainly with the parents and their ability to proctor assisted home schooling, in this plan, it’s also an issue that we’re going to have to take a look at too.

    Pierrette:

    Besides just the perceptions of instructors’ comfort and ability and parents’ comfort and ability, and students, a lot of this actually turns into socio-economic connectivity availability and then digital literacy is such a huge component too that we haven’t really begun to be able to address.

    Digital Literacy & Training Required for Parents, Teachers and Staff

    Pierrette:

    Just in the Merit community, because we connect all the K-12s in Michigan and a majority of the higher education institutions, we’re privy to a lot of the communications that come around. Some districts are considering moving to online learning, some are considering using it as a supplement as Johannes has suggested.

    Pierrette:

    Then we’ve also seen some communications go to parents and their school board and things like that from some of the communities that are saying, we could and we’re fully prepared to, but we can’t because it wouldn’t develop equity and democracy because we do have a portion of our students who don’t have that accessibility.

    Pierrette:

    We’re seeing some schools now on the reverse end who perhaps feel that might even be able to make that leap. But because everyone doesn’t have access, modern devices or the digital literacy skills with their parents or teachers to support these students, they’re not able to.

    Pete:

    I would say just to add to that, that this crisis that we’re in now is definitely a pressure test for us, but I think it’s going to lead to a more robust understanding of what remote learning looks like. There are things outside the mainstream, it’s not just science and math and English. There’s gym class and music class, there’s special needs that need to happen. There’s counseling, all those dimensions if you’re in the educational system, there’s more than just getting assignments, putting up assignments and answering questions.  I’ve seen that personally where folks have been trying to perform IEPs remotely. You have multiple people trying to have these very intimate conversations about these children’s health and wellbeing through distance learning and somebody’s in your kitchen.

    Pete:

    I’m hopeful that this will accelerate not only understanding but the funding and desire to have a more robust learning environment moving forward. Johannes, do you see this current crisis as helping us accelerate to get to that more robust future sooner?

    Johannes:

    Most likely. The way we see it and also as expressed in the short policy brief that Pierrette mentioned, there’s short term, there’s medium term and then there’s long term adaptation. In the short term, unfortunately, many of those digital inequalities that we noticed, are in play in the disadvantaged vulnerable populations and cannot be eliminated. They need more sustained efforts.

     

    Collect Broadband Connectivity & Device Access Data in the Short Term

    Johannes:

    But in the short term, schools still have a chance to adapt and to make better choices going forward. For example, things that schools should consider right now as they hurry to move their curriculum online is they should have a much better sense as to what their connectivity and to devices are that exist in different households. They should actually survey the families by email but follow up by phone once they have done this.

    Johannes:

    They should clarify whether there is high speed internet access and what devices they have. Whether they use the tablets of the child. Is the child away from home frequently? Is someone available to help the child online? Do they have the resources they need? I think there will be, despite the short timeframe, they will be really important for schools to know.

    Johannes:

    Once they have it then they can adopt the least worst short term plan to adapt to this current crisis. In the medium and long run, there’s more options available. One important option would be to make sure, as you said before, that we have the connectivity and we have the complimentary devices as Pierrette pointed out.

    Improve Digital Literacy of Entire School Support Infrastructure – Medium to Long-Term

    Johannes:

    That would include probably also sustained efforts to improve the knowledge of both students and teachers and the whole support infrastructure that schools have to support online learning, at least as a second mode of instruction in cases of disruptions or unexpected crisis.

    Johannes:

    There’s a number of programs (and if you wish we can go more into this) that exist in the current land development as part of the stimulus program. But I do think it’s an opportunity and a motivation to really rethink how we structure education in a way that is more robust and more resilient through these types of disruptions.

     

    Creatively Planning for Resiliency for Other Types of Disruption in the Long-Term

    Johannes:

    This time it’s a virus. I think we should, as a part of this discussion, we should also explore what other kinds of disruptions might happen. We’re familiar with snowstorms, at least where we are, and snow days, but there could be other types of disasters that might actually not be solvable with the type of response we just sketched out for the virus.

    Johannes:

    If you have a physical disruption, maybe that notion of using online education doesn’t work and we’d have to figure out even a scenario C that we haven’t thought about right now. I do think this is a great opportunity once the immediate pressure of the crisis settles to really creatively and with many, many experiments rethink how we think about education.

    Pete:

    Where do we go from here in terms of the questions that you all think need to be answered still? What’s the next research plans that you would like to tackle if you could?

     

    Observing Broadband Access & Connectivity Data Sets Over Time

    Johannes:

    There are several directions in which we would like to go. Some of those are more academic and then some are more practical. From an academic perspective, it would be as a research team, but probably also as a society would benefit from knowing how effective these different types of approaches are in terms of improving educational systems.

    Johannes:

    What we would like to do is have a longitudinal data set that we can observe over time. How connectivity, how different users of the internet – especially at a time when there’s probably many experiments going on – how they affect learning outcomes and those indicators that we mentioned before?

    Johannes:

    The one area that we haven’t had a chance to survey in this round is actually urban areas. Our guess and our anecdotal evidence suggests that the differences to be detected between connected and unconnected students in more rural and small town settings will probably also access in the same way in urban areas. We haven’t been able to run the empirical data collection in there. That would be another thing.

     

    Contributing to Broadband Solutions

    Johannes:

    Thirdly, we would be really interested in contributing to solutions. We don’t want to be just researchers and say here’s what happens. But also help respond to those challenges, and that means probably that solutions have to be customized to each specific location.

    Johannes:

    Although there’s a set of issues that are the same across communities, and experiences that are similar across communities, in the end the geography, the location of the people who need help, the cost of expanding to colleges that they can use to connect people, will all need some local response.

    Johannes:

    There’s room for creativity by local, state colleges and communities. There’s many, many experiments. The Moonshot Project has a great inventory of the questions that you need to ask to go in that direction.

    Johannes:

    I hope that our work establishes kind of a benchmark, a baseline that planners and decision makers can use to come up with good solutions. There are federal programs, there are state programs. Even though there’s currently a lot of money will be channeled into the American economy, resources are always scarce. There’s always further you could go. Using those resources wisely will be an important goal and hopefully we can contribute to these practical discussions too.

    Pete:

    Pierrette, anything from Merit Network’s view in terms of where you’re going to go next?

     

    Michigan Moonshot Broadband Framework – Municipal & Community Resources

    Pierrette:

    There’s a couple of things that Merit is working on. Johannes did mention the Michigan Moonshot broadband framework and we continue there to build out and provide a plethora of resources for all sorts and different communities, activists groups, higher institutions, municipal broadband groups, counties.

    Pierrette:

    If you visit merit.edu/moonshot you’ll find not only the broadband framework, which is planning, building and running and securing a community network. We’ve also built out a 750-page document appendix. That’s got things like sample municipal resolutions. It’s got RFP guides and things of that nature to help you better understand where to go once your community is able and ready to start building out.

    Pierrette:

    Then we’ve also really started to focus on some educational webinars. We have eight or nine hours right now of deep fact content and the nuances of preparing to build a community network. Feasibility planning, financial modeling, we’re working on doing some with grant applications. We’ve got Chris Mitchell from the Institute of Self Reliance and Ben Fineman are going to work together to provide us with some information on understanding all of the different technologies that are available.

    Pierrette:

    As Johannes said, there’s no one solution, there’s no one silver bullet that’s going to work for every community. It’s going to likely take a wide variety of vendor partners and financial modeling applications and technology and resources to make sense for each different community.

    Pierrette:

    We’ll really focus on getting as much information as all of the available options and all the available steps for communities that might at least begin to plan their path forward. The other thing that I did want to make sure I mentioned too is that the Michigan Moonshot was able to partner with the Washtenaw County broadband task force in this last month. More than 8,000 households that represent over 20,000 Washtenaw County residents are currently estimated to lack broadband access.

    Pierrette:

    We work with that county to do an online and a paper survey to all of the residents. The goal of that was to really understand who and how in the community was connected so that the Washtenaw Board of Commissioners could really explore the countywide broadband equity through this collaboration and potentially use that information to explore grant opportunities to assess what’s growing the equity in countywide broadband there.

    Pierrette:

    For Merit, our next two areas of focus are going to be working on some overall information based on what we found out in Washtenaw County and we’re going to continue to build out our educational resources and we’re going to look to the fall to start planning the second annual Michigan Broadband Summit. You can also check the Moonshot website for that.  We’re anticipating broadband expert and leaders along with community members who aren’t really sure of the next place to start or the first place to start to really come together for a collaboration and learning opportunity.

    Pete:

    Johannes, how can our listeners learn more about the Quello Center and some of the resources that you all have available?

    Johannes:

    You can go to our website, www.quello.msu.edu where the materials that we discussed today are available and you can also link back to the team. I would like to mention explicitly the contributions and the leadership by Keith Hampton, Dr. Keith Hampton, of Michigan State University, Leah Fernandez and Craig Robinson who are the researchers who were involved in much of the heavy lifting in this project. Without their sort of vision and persistence, we would not have been able to collect the data and analyze the data that we currently have available, so thanks to them.

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