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Advocacy Broadband access Broadband funding Digital Divide NC BIO

Slow or No Internet?

We Need To Know About Poor Broadband Service

The NC Broadband Survey is designed to gather information on locations without adequate internet access and speeds in our community.

  • For homes and businesses WITHOUT internet service, text 919-750-0553 (standard text messaging rates will apply)

Your feedback directly impacts grant and infrastructure funding in your community.

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Broadband in WNC NC BIO Telehealth

Help Get Connected

For Telehealth

Broadband is critical infrastructure for healthcare in Western North Carolina.

Help us get connected by taking the North Carolina Broadband Survey.

If we can utilize telehealth then the patients can have a provide visit at their home.

Tammy Cody, Health Director – Madison County

Need To Know About Poor Broadband Service

The NC Broadband Survey is designed to gather information on locations without adequate internet access and speeds in our community.

  • For homes and businesses WITH internet service, visit NCBRoadband.gov/Survey
  • For homes and businesses WITHOUT internet service, text 919-750-0553 (standard text messaging rates will apply)

Your feedback directly impacts grant and infrastructure funding in your community.

Categories
Affordability Broadband access Digital Inclusion Fiber Local Government Low-income Access Sandy Mush Terri Wells Wireless

Imperative Internet

Fiber Broadband At the Sandy Mush Community Center

Terri Wells talks about how fiber broadband provides tools to minimize a #digitaldivide at the Sandy Mush Community Center.

Fiber and broadband connectivity are imperative for digital inclusion in our communities.

Bringing high-speed, free internet to the Sandy Mush Community Center has been a life-changer.

Terri Wells

A community center is hub that can provide assistance for education, telehealth, employment, entertainment, and more.

More About SMCC WiFi, Internet

Sandy Mush Community Center Website > WiFi Connection

Fiber Optics – the Timeless Investment

Support the Western North Carolina Broadband Project.

Our WNCBP Advisory Team, including Terri Wells; are advocating for the timeless investment of fiber optics in our communities.

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Broadband in WNC Charter Communications Cherokee County Clay County FCC Graham County Haywood County Internet Service Provider Jackson County Kevin Corbin Macon County RDOF Space Exploration Technologies Starlink Swain County

Federal Dollars for WNC Broadband

Seven westernmost counties are receiving $45 million of the total $166 million coming to the state under the program.”

State Senator Kevin Corbin

In an announcement on his Facebook Page, he says of the total 155,000 customers in North Carolina that these projects will serve, 35,000 are in his seven counties.


Lacey, D. (2021, February 25). Federal dollars to fund broadband efforts from SpaceX, Charter in WNC. The Asheville Citizen Times; Asheville Citizen Times. https://www.citizen-times.com/story/news/2021/02/25/federal-dollars-fund-broadband-efforts-spacex-charter-wnc/4572907001/

https://experience.arcgis.com/experience/0b324cabf7b94d9ca34caa9361122d94/?fbclid=IwAR1_2u9eFNeqUNgNuLvPhBlAwiODR3Zy7YPMLvKHOhZKEVXGzv7KTsauxgc

Categories
Advocacy Broadband access Broadband funding Broadband in WNC Broadband Technology Dan Gerlach Education Federal Efforts Greg Vogt Jeff McDaris Jeff Sural Local Government Local Government North Carolina Paul de Sa Stagg Newman Walter Johnson

WNC Broadband Leadership Summit

March 2, 2021

Meet the Experts, Get Broadband Industry Updates, and Closing The Digital Divide in 2021


You’ve been asking questions- we’re paying attention. 2021 will bring a host of changes to policy, funding, technology, and more.

Join us on March 2nd for our annual broadband leadership summit as we hear from local, state, and national leaders on what those changes will bring.

We will be hearing from:

Paul de Sa- “Perspectives on the new FCC directions and Internet Policy and Funding in the Biden Administration”

Paul was part of the leadership team at the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) from 2009-12 and 2016-17, serving as Chief of its Office of Strategic Planning, with a focus on merger reviews, spectrum policy, and broadband, including work on the National Broadband Plan. He is now a senior partner with Quadra Partners consulting and a member of President Biden’s Broadband Transition Team.

Walter Johnston- “Broadband Technology in 2021”

Walter was Chief of the Electromagnetic Compatibility Division of the FCC from 2009 to Jan. 2019. He is now a senior partner with Danu consulting. He is a leading expert in new broadband technologies.

Dan Gerlach- “Foundations and funding questions”

Dan has served the public for 25 years as a budget advisor to Gov. Easley, President of the Golden Leaf Foundation, and interim Chancellor of East Carolina University. He currently is president of Dan Garlach LLC and a consultant to the Dogwood Health Trust.

Jeff Sural- “What to expect at the state level”

Jeff earned his Bachelor’s degree in Journalism from UNC-Chapel Hill and his J.D. from Western Michigan University. Since January 2015 he has been the Director of the Broadband Infrastructure Office (BIO). BIO leads the statewide initiative to expand high-speed internet access for all North Carolinians.

There will also be information from several providers in the region including Charter, Skyrunner, ERC, and French Broad Electric Co-op.

And more……

This event will be held from 10-noon with optional breakout sessions from noon-1pm.

Breakout Sessions

  • Education – led by Jeff McDaris – will hear what K-12 and colleges have done to meet the pandemic and respond to the digital divide. Barry Pace of Buncombe Schools will provide an update on their experience.
  • New Technologies – led by Stagg Newman and Walter Johnston will continue the conversation about 5G expansion, satellite services, and the future.
  • State & Local Funding for Broadband – led by Jeff Sural and foundation partners – will look at the potential for state and local funding for broadband.
  • Federal Policy Changes – Greg Vogt and Paul de Sa will continue the conversation about what the Biden administration and Democratic control of Congress means for broadband improvements and regulations.

Register for this virtual event today! Spaces are limited.

Date: March 2nd
Presentations: 10-12
Breakout sessions: 12-1
Cost: Free

Zoom Registration Link

For questions related to this event reach out to


Does your organization have a digital inclusion activity it offers?

We want to know!

2020 escalated the conversation around digital inclusion and we want to make sure we know what’s going on across WNC. Please let us know who you are and what your organization is doing by completing this brief survey. We will present an update to this project at the March 2nd Summit. 

Digital Inclusion Survey Link

Categories
Buncombe Buncombe County Schools Education Hotspot

Broadband for Buncombe County Schools

Response to COVID-19, Tech Impact

When the Governor made the decision to close schools late on Friday, March 13, 2020 BCS made arrangements for all of our K-5 students to pick up their 1:1 device March 16-17 (BCS was already 1:1 K-12 with all 6th – 12th graders taking devices home) and began virtual “remote learning” on Wednesday, March 18, 2021 after providing guidance and training for staff.

Over 300 teachers who did not already use a Learning Management System (LMS) were trained on Friday, March 13, 2020 before the governor’s announcement in anticipation of the changes.

We had a homework hotspot (cellular data) program with around 800 students assigned mobile hotspots (600 of which were assigned to high school students) with limited LTE data plans.

Today we have 2800 homework hotspots with the majority now having unlimited high speed data plans. We quickly learned that limited data plans did not support multiple Zoom or Google Meet sessions per day. We also learned that several areas in the county did not have adequate cellular coverage to support homework hotspots. Key areas are Broad River, Sandy Mush and certain areas of Fairview, but there are smaller pockets without cellular coverage throughout the county (e.g. areas in the Leicester area and even within the Asheville city limits).

We identified between 50 and 100 families that had essentially no access to wired or wireless high speed broadband. BCS partnered with Skyrunner and Charter to connect approximately 15 families, but unfortunately the majority of these 50-100 families did not have line of sight to a Skyrunner tower or did not live close enough to a Charter fiber line to get service. Some of these families leverage Wi-Fi at places like our Public Libraries, Broad River Fire Department or Sandy Mush Community Center, as well some travel to family and friends for Wi-Fi.

We did work with the Buncombe County Local Government to gain permission for Skyrunner to place equipment on the Broad River tower. Buncombe County Local Government in partnership with the ACS & BCS Foundation and the Housing Authority are partnering with Skyrunner to provide free Wi-Fi to each HA residence.

One key takeaway was that current satellite Internet options are less than ideal in terms of speed and latency to support virtual instruction.

We also increased staffing for our Technology Help Desk to accommodate a significant increase in support requests and provide support in English and Spanish. We provided custom training to all instructional staff including Best Practices for Remote Learning and specific Learning Management System courses for Seesaw (K-2), Google Classroom and Canvas.

Digital Learning in partnership with Curriculum, Student Services and Special Services created a Remote Learning Guide for teachers. This guide was based on data from the Friday Institute and adapted for our school system. It is continually updated as we learn more about remote learning. Digital Learning created a Virtual Days website for parents, students, teachers and staff to support remote learning. Our BCS Virtual Academy was expanded to accommodate new applicants. Digital Learning created online tutorials and professional development (BCS Digital Learning YouTube Channel) and Language Services translated tutorials into Spanish and Russian. Teachers were required to complete remote learning and LMS training at the beginning of this school year. Weekly optional live virtual trainings are available and recordings are posted on our YouTube channel. Continuing education credits are given for the trainings.

We have learned a great deal due to this unprecedented pandemic. One thing is for sure, our staff and students are resilient and they have, for the most part, adapted to online learning during this challenging time while also becoming more technologically savvy.

Barry Pace, Director of Technology, Buncombe County Schools
Categories
Broadband access GREAT Program Transylvania

Increased Broadband in Transylvania County

‌Transylvania County in Western North Carolina will see increased broadband with their local internet service provider, Comporium. They won a $2.8 million grant for NC’s GREAT Program that will improve area economic development, education, and health systems.


Comporium Wins Broadband Grant to Expand Gigabit Service in N. Carolina – Telecompetitor. (2021, February 15). Telecompetitor.com. https://www.telecompetitor.com/comporium-wins-broadband-grant-to-expand-gigabit-service-in-n-carolina/


Also See

Categories
Broadband funding Broadband in WNC Economic Development FCC Kevin Jones RDOF Stagg Newman WLOS

About $45M in Federal Grants for Broadband Expansion in WNC

Our Western North Carolina Broadband Team Leader, Kevin Jones:

Looks like several WNC counties will be getting around $45M in RDOF funding.

Kevin Jones

Stagg Newman, Retired FCC Technologist and also a WNC Broadband Project Team Lead adds:

These grants help a bit. In Buncombe County, we have estimated that we have at least 15,000 Households without available future proof broadband service as defined in the Buncombe County RFP. These federal grants only address less than 1500 lines in Buncombe County, so less than 10% of the problem. I think the situation is similar in Henderson County and probably in other counties. So a small step in the right directions. The problem is most of the unserved areas do not qualify as totally unserved census blocks under the FCC Rural Development Opportunity Fund (RDOF). Congress mandated in 2019 that the FCC fix their mapping problem but only funded the FCC to do so in December of 2020. It will likely take the FCC at least two years to do so. The next $10 B of RDOF money will not be available until after the FCC fixes the maps.

Stagg Newman

In the WLOS video, Senator Kevin Corbin talks about the importance of broadband in Western North Carolina

WLOS – Sen. Kevin Corbin – (R) District 50

Dr. Shelley White, President of Haywood Community College also references in the WLOS video the broadband client-access benefits for their Small Business Center.

WLOS – Dr. Shelley White, President, Haywood Community College

Hodge, R. (2021, February 16). About $45 million in federal grants will help expand broadband in WNC. WLOS; WLOS. https://wlos.com/news/local/federal-grants-to-help-rural-counties-expand-broadband

Categories
ART Bus Asheville Broadband access Digital Equity Digital Inclusion Mobile Data

ART Bus Station WiFi

As a regular City of Asheville bus rider, Marc Czarnecki is happy to see that the ART (Asheville Redefines Transit) bus station now has free public Wi-Fi. Riding the bus now really requires an individual to check the schedule frequently. There are multiple different scheduling tools available online for planning your bus trip departure time, which bus to get on, arrival time, etc.

Some of Marc’s smartphone apps to assist in effectively riding the ART bus public transportation include the following. They can now be downloaded at the bus station.


ART Website Transit Maps and Schedules

City of Asheville ART Transit Maps and Schedules

Transit Mobile App

Transitapp.com

Google Maps

Google Maps – Transit & Food – App Store

FCC Speedtest Results

When any individual travels, their time is important. Understanding how internet the ART Bus Station public Wi-Fi is listed below with a screen shot of the speedtest results using the FCC Speedtest App.

If you are in a hurry at the Asheville ART Bus Station; I would not consider the above results acceptable to quickly download apps and check bus statuses.

Charge Your Phone

The newly updated interior bus lobby does have a few plugs to charge your mobile device if needed.

Helpful WNC Broadband Links

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Apple iPhone Free WiFi iOS Mobile Data Wireless

Broadband and Mobility

Asheville is Sunny and 58 degrees

Marc Czarnecki – AB Tech Continuing Education Technology Instructor

As an instructor at Asheville-Buncombe Community College Continuing Education, I see students mostly in the 50+ demographic who don’t have technology support readily available to them. During this week’s Apple iPhone class at the Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College, Ferguson Workforce Building; students shared stories and I answered several questions related to broadband.

Asheville Cell Tower

iPhone is Cellular-Data Dependent

The smallest computer that most of us own is a smartphone. It depends on broadband to connect to cloud-based services; including location-sharing features such as weather forecasts and timing information. Our mobility with the smartphone requires data from cellular towers, as pictured.

These cell towers require infrastructure including electricity and fiber optic cables to connect to internet servers. Although cellular data provides internet connectivity, usually at slower speeds than a home or business wired terrestrial broadband connections; with the topography of Western North Carolina, can wireless services provide more digital inclusion?

WiFi Smartphone Connections

With mobility comes the awareness that a user’s cellular data plan is expensive and can have data caps. Additionally, ‘unlimited data plans’ usually have data-throttle thresholds where cellular connectivity speeds are lowered. Thus a mobile device user is attracted to ‘free WiFi.’ Speed testing a ‘free WiFi’ location will also give you a indicator of how fast data is exchanged at the location, thus making a pleasant or not-so pleasant experience.

Free WiFi Pros / Cons

Security and privacy become pro & con considerations where ‘free WiFi’ is located.

  • Is the available network valid? Don’t trust just the name of the network. Ask an employee.
  • Public networks may provide opportunities for data details to be captured. As a general rule DO NOT use ‘free WiFi’ for financial or other personally sensitive information. Consider using a Virtual Private Network or VPN.
  • How reliable is the network? Is there trusted Information Technology staff maintaining the network?
  • Advertisements may be presented to you in exchange for the free service.
  • Generally lower broadband speeds can be expected.

Advocating Broadband for WNC

The Western Carolina Broadband leadership team is here to advocate for ‘future-proof’ broadband investments.

Please email the WNCBP team with questions or comments.