Roundup: ‘Shortsighted’ Telecoms

E-Rate reforms could help schools take control of broadband access • Minn. state senator has heard enough – it’s time for better Internet access for rural areas, he says • Rural economy fuels pickup sales in India • Small cities don’t make next round of innovation-award competition.


Cave to Canvas

The Great Serpent Mound, a three-foot-tall, 1,348-foot-long mound of dirt piled into the shape of a snake, is about to get its 15 minutes of fame. The History Channel’s Scott Wolter will be examining the mound, located in southern Ohio’s Adams County, for their “America Unearthed” program starting January 25th. No one knows for sure who built the mound, though evidence does point to the Fort Ancient culture, but researchers think the structure was created around 1070.

Reforming E-Rate to Help Schools. The Butte, Montana, school district got tired of waiting for commercial Internet providers to provide higher-speed access and more bandwidth, so they created a public-private partnership to build their own network.

Butte’s story is part of an Education Week article on possible reforms in the federal E-Rate program, a system for supporting communications technology in schools. The Federal Communications Commission will consider changes in the program this year that could allow schools to take more control over their Internet access. Current restrictions limit schools’ abilities to “self provision” Internet access and create their own networks. Telecommunications firms are opposing changes in the E-Rate program.

That opposition irritates Douglas Levin, executive director of the State Educational Technology Directors Association.

“They’ve been acting to meet their shareholders’ short-term interests,” he said. “I wish, however, that they would see [expanding access to high-speed connections] as a social good, and that they wouldn’t put handcuffs on schools’ ability to get services and essentially shut out rural kids from high-speed access. That’s what’s happening today.”

Minnesota Senator’s Broadband Listening Tour. Southeast Minnesota state Senator Matt Schmit reports on the results of his broadband listening tour of rural Minnesota. The senator says it’s time for the state to do more to help rural areas improve broadband connections:

The findings have been clear: (1) despite the best efforts of our local providers and cooperatives, poor broadband connectivity remains a real problem in many parts of the state; (2) for too many of our communities and rural areas, scarce resources and limited private return-on-investment, as well as outdated and unclear state laws, serve as barriers to improved broadband connectivity; and (3) folks are ready to do something about it.

Schmit says he hopes the state will address broadband policy in 2014.

Pickups Defined. The Business Standard of India reports that a strong rural economy is fueling sales of pickup trucks, even while the rest of the auto industry is flat. Small-truck sales have climbed from 12,000 units in 2001 to 190,000 last year.

Even with sales figures like that, we’re guessing that pickups are not as common in India as they are in the U.S. The Business Standard explains to its readers that pickups are “typically … a small truck with an open cargo space in the rear.” Good to know.

Coyote Hunt. Organizers of the eighth annual Modoc County, California, coyote hunt are keeping a low profile, reports Chris Clarke in the KCET television website.

Fliers distributed locally around Adin, California, say the Big Valley Coyote Drive will be February 7-9. In previous years, the hunt has given prizes to teams that bag the most coyotes. But the organizers of the event aren’t pushing notice of the hunt beyond some Facebook posts on hunter-group pages, Clarke reports. The hunt has attracted complaints from animal welfare groups in previous years, Clarke writes.

A Facebook post says the dates of the hunt coincide with calving season. Farm and Ranch guide reports in a 2010 article that coyotes were responsible for about half of all calf predation deaths in 2005, the last year funding was available to track those numbers.

Small Cities Don’t Make the Digital-Innovation Short List. Two small U.S. cities that were contenders for an international digital-innovation award won’t be advancing to the next round of the contest. Mitchell, South Dakota, and the Walla Walla, Washington, region made the list of Smart21 communities last year, along with international giants like Rio de Janeiro and Montreal. But Mitchell and Walla Walla aren’t among the seven localities that will advance to the next round. The two U.S. locations still on the list are Columbus, Ohio, and Arlington County, Virginia, according to a press release from the Intelligent Community Forum.