The Federal government, the State of North Carolina, and local entities continue to need accurate data to make optimal decisions about where service is needed and how to fund the expansion of broadband services.
What are the FCC Broadband Data Collection (BDC) milestones that will give the FCC, industry, state, local and Tribal government entities, and consumer the tools they need to improve the accuracy of existing maps?
Western North Carolina sees a lot of the Amazon vans, darting to efficiently deliver our packages.
Could this same company, Amazon; disrupt telehealth?
The delivery of healthcare?
Doctor on demand?
They are starting with their own employees!
Key Points of the Article Below
Amazon will expand its virtual health pilot program, Amazon Care, to all of its U.S. employees starting this summer.
The company will also offer the virtual health program as a service for other employers nationally.
Amazon Care launched as a pilot program two years ago to provide convenient urgent care visits virtually for the company’s employees in Washington state.
Coombs, B. (2021, March 17). Amazon is expanding Amazon Care telehealth service nationally for its employees and other companies. CNBC; CNBC. https://www.cnbc.com/2021/03/17/amazon-is-expanding-amazon-care-telehealth-service-nationally-for-employees.html
In the coronavirus relief broadband bill ‘Accessible, Affordable Internet for All Act’ individuals can receive a subsidy to help minimize the digital divide.
The bill offers a $50 monthly discount for broadband services and a one-time discount of up to $100 for a computer or tablet purchased through a participating provider (one discount per eligible household).
As Vice-President for Information Technology & Chief Information Officer at Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College, one of the largest and most impactful educational institutions in western North Carolina, I have had a front-row seat during the COVID-19 crisis and have perhaps a unique perspective on the challenges encountered and lessons learned during the College’s (and community’s) adaptations to this changing environment.
By virtue of a decade of reinvigorated attention to the value of technology within modern higher-education, A-B Tech entered the crisis is a stronger position than many of sister colleges within the North Carolina Community College System, and a stronger position than many other corporate entities and governmental agencies in the region. When NC’s community colleges were instructed in March of 2020 to switch operations to 100% online, A-B Tech was well situated to make this transition and already had much of the infrastructure in place to facilitate that transition. That’s not to say that considerable investments of money, time and labor weren’t needed on a very compressed timeline or that everything had been figured out ahead of time but A-B Tech was fortunate in being able to rapidly make adjustments and deploy resources to quickly resume operations in a radically altered format. As we assess the hurdles already overcome and the difficulties which remain, one of the most universal and foundational challenges is connectivity.
As an institution, A-B Tech can implement solid systems and processes to provide for efficient and effective remote instruction and support, we can deliver software and hardware to enable home-based employees and students alike, we can offer training to facilitate the use of such technology – but we are very restricted in our ability to provide employees or students with the fast and reliable Internet access which necessarily underpins all such remote-working arrangements. We have implemented web-based and cloud-hosted solutions, have deployed laptops, webcams, headsets and mobile WiFi hotspots, have instituted new policies and procedures to adapt operations to fix demands, have established COVID-conscious computer labs and have invited the community to use our parking lots for connectivity from inside one’s car, etc. Only in limited situations, however, have we been able to solve a connectivity challenge with cellular access points or other workaround approaches. Cutting across socioeconomic lines, crossing the urban/rural boundaries, impacting people without regard for educational attainment or financial situation, the very real challenge of high-speed Internet access throughout western North Carolina impacts students, faculty, staff and senior administration at A-B Tech, as it similarly impacts our local businesses and our regional K-12 schools. Broadband Internet access has quickly proven to be a core requirement of “the new normal,” as fundamental to modern life as electricity and running water.
Brian Willis, VP of IT/CIO Information Technology, A-B Tech Community College
Impact of COVID on Broadband for a Higher Education Institution
In the delivery of remote or hybrid instruction, as we’ve experienced over the past year, there are two key locations that need to be connected: the professor and the student. The connection is provided via broadband. With high speed connections and reliability, learning is enabled. It is absolutely critical for success.
For a university with faculty and students located in more rural areas of North Carolina and in areas underserved with respect to broadband, this can be a significant problem; and in a lot of cases there may only be one internet service provider, if even available. In fact, from a technology perspective, this was probably the number one item expressed by both faculty and students. We experienced some faculty needing to come to campus only because they had poor internet connectivity, reliability, or bandwidth at home. A significant number of students experienced the same situation and we heard instances of students driving to a nearby McDonalds to use their wireless from the parking lot to access learning management systems or Zoom sessions. Locally, some students came to campus to use the university’s outdoor WiFi. Here in the mountains, cellular is not usually an effective solution due to the terrain, and in fact for many, cellular connectivity is actually being delivered over their broadband connection; so without broadband there is no cellular coverage. Without quality broadband professors can’t teach and students are not able to learn and engage.
In addition to the faculty and students, the university runs via its staff employees. Areas include facilities, finance, purchasing, information technology, campus services, fundraising, admissions, tutoring, academic services, research, and more. These services and functions need to remain operational. Staff need to be able to access systems, payroll, remotely answer phones, meet in teams, and provide services. Working remotely, as most staff was being asked to do, requires quality broadband. Without it a person cannot do their work, provide necessary functions, or assist faculty, students, or other staff.
Just before the pandemic hit, WCU Power and Morris Broadband were very close to completing the implementation of high speed broadband service to the WCU Power service area. The service area encompasses a significant number of faculty, staff, and students that live near the university. Many have said they are so thankful that the new broadband service was in place — because it is what enabled them to successfully teach, work, and study remotely. Without it, they would have either not be able to work or would only have been able to do so being present on campus — significantly impacting university operations.
Craig Fowler, Chief Information Officer (CIO) at Western Carolina University