OneRouge Community Check-In - Week 113
The focus of the conversation is a continuation on our 9 Drivers of Poverty series on "The Digital Divide: It Multiplies Inequality" with a focus on what the Digital Divide really means, who is truly impacted, and the challenges the entire state faces in closing it.
Enlight, Unite, & Ignite!
Quick Links: Notes, Zoom Chat, Community Announcements
Veneeth Iyengar (Louisiana State Executive Director for Broadband Development & Connectivity, ConnectLA)
In late 2019 the Governor recognized that addressing the digital divide was critical for Louisiana so he created the Broadband for everyone initiative. Two representatives: Avoiles and Ouachita Parishes, both created legislation to create this office. The need for coordination between state and federal agencies. In early 2021, that’s when the governor approached me. Made a three year commitment and agreed to implement a staff. As a culture and an office we think of ourselves as a public start up. I report to Jay Dardenne. He has held many high office positions. He understands the politics, the policy and the finance side of things. Our office actually sits in the commissioners office. Communicating complex topics to folks who are not typically used to getting that information. It’s a lot more difficult for people in rural areas to understand how to build a digital road than a physical one. Our efforts in Louisiana are recognized from the feds as having one if not the best broadband office in the country. They would never publicly admit it, but our speed and ability to execute and take action on feedback has been consistently recognized.
Tracy White (Senior Public Affairs Specialist, Cox Communications)
Cox is the nation's largest privately owned telecommunications company and we were founded by educators, so the digital divide is something we’re trying to solve for. We were all taken for a ride in 2020. For the last decade before the pandemic we were pushing the Cox Connect to Compete service. We wanted to connect to families with K-12 students because they depended on the internet. Then in 2020, everything shifted, and we were able to get devices into and for individuals who needed it. There were about 403,000 households without the internet. It’s not a luxury, it’s a necessity. It is very important for us to get together and penetrate these areas where there is no access and the infrastructure is not there, or affordability is not there. We’re now calling it digital equity. We’re looking forward to having more discussions about this. I oversee the charitable giving for the region. I’m working with groups to spread this message so more people can access the internet.
Stupid question: almost everybody has a smart phone. when you say no equipment, do you mean laptops/desktops???
We know people are accessing through their mobile phones, but we mean actual hardware people can access the internet with.
Veneeth - 1.6 million people in Louisiana lack access to the internet for some reason: access, affordability, literacy, device. We’re going to make the first significant wave of announcement in the next few weeks. On the infrastructure bill, we’re going to get 1.1 to 1.2 billion dollars. We’re going to make sure the unserved population in Louisiana has access to it but has access to high speed internet that’s affordable. Once we focus on the unserved, we’re going to focus on the underserved. Then once we take care of the underserved we’re going to focus on community anchors like hospitals, etc. We’re not going to see that until Q1 next year. We’re going to still go through a grant mechanism to incetize companies. We’ve been really pushing the affordable connectivity program. 290,000 households that get $30 off each month on bills, or 100 towards a device. On a per capita basis we’re number 1, but we also have a lot of people that need it which isn’t good. On digital literacy, we think there are between 470,000 people that lack basic computer literacy. In highly urbanized areas, you’re going to have higher numbers of folks that lack basic literacy. In East Carroll, the numbers are low, but percentage of population is high. We’re going to focus on a literacy program in five parishes, where we fund the libraries to train digital navigators to teach basic digital literacy. The last is on digital equity and inclusion. The infrastructure bill that gets all the glam is the big dollars coming to the state for access. What was included in that bill was something called the Digital Equity Act. It’s 2.75 billion dollars. We were the first states to submit our letter of intent. The purpose of that DEA is to establish the state’s first digital equity plan. It’s going to involve a tremendous amount of stakeholder involvement. What happens is once we have developed that plan, we submit that to the feds and once it’s approved it locks in money to get it started. We will see that money in Q3 of next year. There’s a very clear distinction between digital equity and digital inclusion. We’re going to certify that every unserved structure has access to high speed affordable internet. There are going to be so many jobs created because of this. How do we make sure that folks who have been recently incarcerated have the ability to be part of this? These are not minimum wage jobs. These are $25 an hour jobs. We are going to need 5,000 of these folks over the next five years. We really need from a workforce perspective, but to develop a plan starting in the summer of next year.
Tracy - Cox joined 19 other service providers at the White House in May. For us we need to expand our programs to get to folks that need access to these programs. We came to an agreement to lower the price of our services so that people can qualify for it for free. That looks like anyone who is applying for any kind of government assistance they could qualify for a subsidy. We’ve dropped the price to $30. People can apply that credit to their monthly bill.
Rinaldi Jacobs - No human left behind is the pillar of what we need right now. Cybersecurity as an example, if you’re in Tensas parish, you can’t get a cybersecurity job because you can’t access the internet. Our schools should be open year round. They shouldn’t close during summer when they need the assistance year round. We need to push for relocation of oil and gas tax. K-12 computer science education. At some point, we’re going to have to reconcile the infrastructure for digital.
Veneeth - Hurricane Ida significantly knocked down more holes than Katrina. We recognize that when Ida happened several commissioners from the federal commission came down and spent time with the governor and first responders. We feel this is a one time shot at this money. I want to work myself out of a job. For the 26 parishes south of I-10, if we’re smart with the money we’re getting, we may have money to make it a requirement that any ISP that wants our money to go into those areas, has to put that stuff underground. We’re working with the governors team on flood patterns. Hurricanes are not loosing the strength as soon as they make landfall.
Dead Spots - That may speak to satellite coverage. If we’re smart enough with the way we spend our money, we may have enough to build cell towers in those dead zones. There are pockets in north EBR that are hyper rural. I talked to Mayor Broome about applying for our grant.
In order for us to unlock federal money we have to have a 5 year spending plan and we have to have it done by April of next year and we have to address issues of cyber security. We have to tactically address those issues and the second is around climate. We have to address these as part of our five year plan. The unintended consequences of getting everyone internet is increased mental health issues, increased social isolationism, increased internet rabbit hole. On the front end helping to address cyber fraud. Those are things we are going to quickly address that we want to get feedback from you for our five year plan.
Tracy - We are investing in the network to prevent those dead area. We lost so many poles during hurricane Ida. Cox was looking at ways of reassuring those things.
Manny Patole - Everything is connected. The general question/comment for both, the idea of using public dollars for private things, even if the applications are out there and people are unaware of what they are, how do you get out in the communities to make sure people know what they are.
Tracy - The short of it is that we are not just reactively going out and marketing to people. We are out boots on the ground at the events to talk to people. We have a street team that goes out and talks to people and enroll people with the devices.
Alfreda Tillman - I’m concerned that we have not had the opportunity to do as much assessment with people to find out what they actually need. Getting the information to them and actually getting them enrolled.
The resources in the larger metro areas are not equitably distributed. Some of the kids go all the way through school and have not had computer literacy. COVID provided an absolute necessity to have that access. We can’t assume that just because it’s the 21st century and we should be teaching these things, that they are getting them.
Rev Anderson - In the incarceration system technology is the duel issue. The private companies come in and make it expensive and suck the assets out of those families. In the same systems, no jail or prison in the state does technology except for prison enterprises. Oftentimes, if I put a store in a low or no wealth community, I will charge more for that service, I will issue a poverty surcharge. My son went to a 360 school, and the benefit was that every nonprofit or community service has to provide that service to the students.
08:24:04 From Helena Williams to Everyone:
You cant see a sunrise in SF bc of the fog
08:28:57 From Manny Patole(he|his, CCBR) to Everyone:
Rinaldi co-hosting today?
08:29:07 From One Rouge to Everyone:
He's pinch hitting
08:29:15 From Manny Patole(he|his, CCBR) to Everyone:
08:29:33 From Manny Patole(he|his, CCBR) to Everyone:
Have folks seen this: https://www.internetforall.gov/program/enabling-middle-mile-broadband-infrastructure-program
08:29:41 From Manny Patole(he|his, CCBR) to Everyone:
08:30:13 From Morgan Udoh (She/Her/They) to Everyone:
Morning OneRouge fam!
08:30:29 From Manny Patole(he|his, CCBR) to Everyone:
Good Morning All
08:30:50 From One Rouge to Everyone:
Good morning, Fam
08:30:51 From Manny Patole(he|his, CCBR) to Everyone:
Dr Bell and Casey ARE NOT WEARING THE SAME SHIRT
08:31:02 From One Rouge to Everyone:
08:31:13 From Manny Patole(he|his, CCBR) to Everyone:
Seriously, what happened?!
08:31:22 From One Rouge to Everyone:
@manny, it's up to you to put on light blue or white.
08:31:46 From Manny Patole(he|his, CCBR) to Everyone:
I have a beige t-shirt on… le sigh
08:31:49 From Flitcher R. Bell to Everyone:
I'm traveling, in Boston, and didn't get the MEMO! LOL
08:32:06 From One Rouge to Everyone:
08:32:44 From Esperanza Zenon to Everyone:
Good morning everybody
08:34:12 From One Rouge to Everyone:
08:34:52 From One Rouge to Everyone:
whose responsibility is it to send out the memo???
08:36:41 From One Rouge to Everyone:
i rather enjoy contrarian approaches LOL!
08:37:27 From Rinaldi Jacobs Sr to Everyone:
08:37:49 From Casey Phillips to Everyone:
Jay Dardenne is a Louisiana treasure
08:38:14 From Rinaldi Jacobs Sr to Everyone:
08:39:04 From Rinaldi Jacobs Sr to Everyone:
08:40:11 From One Rouge to Everyone:
"Understanding ow to build a digital highway" seems an critical piece of info. Are rural folks having to do that themselves? Or is state or the feds guiding them?
08:41:51 From Rinaldi Jacobs Sr to Everyone:
08:41:55 From Patrisha’s iPhone to Everyone:
08:46:36 From One Rouge to Everyone:
i like the idea of digital equity!
08:46:38 From Patrisha’s iPhone to Everyone:
You are so on it!!
08:47:12 From One Rouge to Everyone:
Stupid question: almost everybody has a smart phone. when you say no equipment, do you mean laptops/desktps???
08:47:19 From Patrisha’s iPhone to Everyone:
Come to Scotlandville!!
08:47:30 From Manny Patole(he|his, CCBR) to Everyone:
08:47:34 From Rev. Alexis Anderson to Everyone:
One of the challenges is also the apps access. If I am looking for a job I may need certain apps that may not be accessible in the public square.
08:47:45 From Manny Patole(he|his, CCBR) to Everyone:
403K households, not individuals
08:48:16 From Rev. Alexis Anderson to Everyone:
There is also a very serious issue with digital literacy.
08:48:53 From Pam Wall to Everyone:
I am a lifetime advocate for public education but never have understood why all schools are locked up all summer, with computers stored in closets and the internet on vacation when many of our students are already so far behind.....doesn't make sense. Taxpayers are being short changed.
08:49:23 From Manny Patole(he|his, CCBR) to Everyone:
08:49:28 From One Rouge to Everyone:
Access, literacy, device, affordablity
08:49:32 From Rev. Alexis Anderson to Everyone:
Absolutely agree Pam!
08:49:45 From Marlee Pittman to Everyone:
And stable, safe housing to plug in at!
08:49:56 From One Rouge to Everyone:
08:50:29 From Flitcher R. Bell to Everyone:
I truly agree with you Pam!!
08:50:30 From One Rouge to Everyone:
Wait. I need small words and short sentences. WHat's an ISP
08:50:45 From Rev. Alexis Anderson to Everyone:
How does this blueprint address Louisiana's issues with hurricanes and other climate change related challenges?
08:51:12 From Casey Phillips to Everyone:
Amen Pam Walls and Marlee Pittman!
08:52:17 From Liz Shephard (Love Your City) to Everyone:
Yes Rev. Anderson - my thoughts exactly.
08:52:25 From Rev. Alexis Anderson to Everyone:
Is the digital infrastructure leadership part of the Emergency Planning System at all levels?
08:52:40 From Manny Patole(he|his, CCBR) to Everyone:
To confirm, paying private firms to provide broadband access that people will still have to pay for?
08:53:00 From Alfreda Tillman Bester, SULC to Everyone:
Pam is on point, as ususal. Unfortunately, our elected officials do not have the political will to commit the resources necessary to staff summer programs and access in our schools.
08:53:05 From Manny Patole(he|his, CCBR) to Everyone:
Sorry, private/co-ops applying for grants/funds
08:54:09 From Manny Patole(he|his, CCBR) to Everyone:
Prof Tillman is correct, if resources are not there to keep doors open and manage spaces, it is hard to do things in the summer (think summer breakfast/lunch program difficulties)
08:54:28 From Chandra Stacie (she/her) to Everyone:
08:54:57 From Rev. Alexis Anderson to Everyone:
How does that literacy calculation relate to need? For instance low and no wealth communities must access governmental services via the internet? What is the literacy level required? Where are baseline for understanding who needs what level of literacy?
08:55:43 From Liz Shephard (Love Your City) to Everyone:
Louisiana is first in something! Thanks, Veneeth ;)
08:56:06 From Patrisha’s iPhone to Everyone:
Anything in Evangeline parish areas?
Oakdale Villeplatte Opelousas areas
08:57:08 From One Rouge to Everyone:
digital equity is not digital inclusion
08:57:48 From Alfreda Tillman Bester, SULC to Everyone:
Veneeth, I know an EXCELLENT Law Center with a program focused on Equity that is ready and willing to contract with you to develop that Digital Equity/Inclusion Plan. 😇
08:57:49 From Rev. Alexis Anderson to Everyone:
In Baton Rouge we have the Capital Area Corporate Recycling Council ? Does something like this organization exist in other parts of the state?
08:59:02 From Helena Williams to Everyone:
What is the current conversation happening around making internet a public utility? Are there barriers from this happening?
08:59:12 From Rev. Alexis Anderson to Everyone:
Many of the barriers for formerly incarcerated people come from organizations and policy makers putting restriction in how can serve in these jobs.
09:00:11 From Rev. Alexis Anderson to Everyone:
Sorry typo, who can serve in these jobs.
09:00:16 From Rinaldi Jacobs Sr to Everyone:
The CACRC charges about $150 for a lap top. I don't know if the Federal dollars allow the purchase of "used" devices with the $100 grant
09:00:16 From Morgan Udoh (She/Her/They) to Everyone:
^Helena... inquiring minds would like to know…its me. i'm the inquiring mind.
09:00:19 From Patrisha’s iPhone to Everyone:
Please address the ‘public utility’ quest
09:00:21 From Liz Shephard (Love Your City) to Everyone:
Agreed, public access to internet is important.
09:01:48 From Patrisha’s iPhone to Everyone:
$30 a month for high speed ?
09:02:29 From Manny Patole(he|his, CCBR) to Everyone:
Let's not get into Opportunity Zones ;-)
09:02:43 From Liz Shephard (Love Your City) to Everyone:
09:02:45 From Rev. Alexis Anderson to Everyone:
Does Cox partner with CAUW to help people understand the resources through 211 and Super Tax events?
09:03:25 From Rev. Alexis Anderson to Everyone:
That's how you do it!!!!!!
09:04:08 From Patrisha’s iPhone to Everyone:
Yes! Go Jake and Thank You!
09:04:30 From Tracy White to Everyone:
@ Rev Alexis Yes, Cox is a sponsor of CAUW's 211 program and advocates for the services it provides
09:04:51 From Rev. Alexis Anderson to Everyone:
09:05:16 From Samantha Morgan to Everyone: