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Learn about the National Broadband Resource Hub and how the Hub supports governments and nonprofits working to close the digital divide. The Hub team will share tips on how to best utilize resources, community conversations, and the help desk.
This event occurred on February 11, 2022. You can view the recording or read the transcript below.
Kyle McEneaney, Schmidt Futures: [00:00:16] Hi, everybody, and welcome. My name is Kyle McEneaney. I'm the program lead for connectivity at Schmidt Futures, joined by some friends here, along for the ride, for the National Broadband Resource Hub. We're glad you could join us. We wanted to take this opportunity both to show you a bit about the Hub and answer some questions, but also, up top, to tell you a bit about why we're doing this and what we're seeking to achieve. So Schmidt Futures is a philanthropic organization founded by Eric and Wendy Schmidt. We seek to bet early on exceptional people who are using their talents to make the world better for others. The core mission of the connectivity program is to increase access to internet, high speed internet, affordably for as many people as possible. As you all probably know, the way that philanthropy can do this has changed recently. So prior to the announcement of infrastructure funds for broadband-- a sort of historic investment opportunity with public monies-- It was often disparate initiatives to connect a home, or a set of homes in a community, or in a city where people scrounged together capital and built a network. Now we're facing a very new funding opportunity. We're making a once in a lifetime investment in broadband. And actually the problems that we have to solve to get that done efficiently are different. No longer is capital the limiting factor, but in fact, execution is very difficult. This is what we've heard from counterparties in the federal government, at state government and at the local level. So what we and partners like Ford and others thought, or began to think about, was what is the best way that philanthropy can help this situation, knowing that capital isn't necessarily the rate limiting factor here?
Kyle McEneaney, Schmidt Futures: [00:02:16] So one of the many strategies we're attempting to deploy to bridge the digital divide is to solve for this execution problem. And we're very happy to have launched in beta this National Broadband Resource Hub as a means to address that issue. So the idea is to create a shared pool of resources to help state, local and federal administrative officials who are responsible for building and executing broadband plans to do their job well, knowing that they're understaffed, that they have very little time, that oftentimes they don't have expertise in broadband. We want to make this available to them as a public resource funded by philanthropy so that they can-- They and we together-- can succeed in bridging the digital divide. This is the origin of this initiative. We're really glad that you all have come to participate in it, and we're eager to continue improving the hub to ensure that it responds to the needs of you, the users, and the community as we continue working to bridge the digital divide. We're really happy to have the Broadband Equity Partnership team working on this for us, and we're especially happy to have the Ford Foundation as a core launch partner working on this initiative and others. Chance Williams is here today as a program officer with Ford and Chance, I wonder if you might tell us a bit about your perspective on the Hub and the digital divide and the work you're doing in this space?
Chance Williams, Ford Foundation: [00:03:47] Thanks so much, Kyle, and good to see you all. As Kyle said my name is Chance, I'm a Program Officer with the Ford Foundation's Technology and Society Program, and all of Ford's work across the Foundation is focused on the drivers of inequality and for the Technology and Society Program. That means working at the intersection of technology and civil and human rights. Broadband equity, access to affordable-- affordable access to high speed internet has been a Ford priority for decades, and we've long supported civil society organizations that work to ensure the public interest is considered in technology policy debates. And we've also supported municipal leaders who are working together across the political spectrum to find solutions that help to get their communities connected to high speed internet. And across programs at Ford we've also supported community-driven efforts that are innovative and take the knowledge that's in un- and under-served communities and puts it to work in solving big problems with connectivity. And in all of this work, the thing that we've learned is that there is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to what works for a community, and that community should have some agency and input as solutions are developed. And that really is the reason why we were so excited to partner with Schmidt Futures to support the National Broadband Resource Hub. We know that this is a critical moment with a ton of opportunity, and we just want to make sure all of you have the resources, information that you need to take advantage of the opportunity. So thanks a lot, Kyle, back to you.
Kyle McEneaney, Schmidt Futures: [00:05:42] Absolutely, and you know, that's a great reminder that, you know, a lot of people have been-- including Ford and others-- have been focused on this issue for some time. And that's why it's so critical that this moment and this opportunity doesn't go to waste and we're going to do everything we can to ensure that it doesn't. So without much further ado, I'd like to pass it off to the Broadband Equity Partnership team to describe the Hub in more detail. From a high level, I can tell you the idea is that this is a shared-- again, shared resource available to state, local and federal government officials as they prepare plans and eventually execute and implement those plans. There are three key components that we heard would be of use to the field from initial research that we had done. One is an independently curated Resource Library containing best in class how-to guides and thinking on everything from pole attachment policies and public-private partnership structures, to "What is broadband?" and "What could a broadband office-- what should a broadband office consist of?" We wanted that to be independently curated and funded by philanthropy so that stakeholders with a vested interest in the outcome or potential vendors weren't the ones driving the conversation, but the communities of interest and focus were the ones getting the best outcomes. The second component is Community Conversations. We wanted to create a space where government leaders could share best practices with each other, share concerns and ideally surface those concerns so that we as a philanthropy can respond to them, however best we can. And then the third is the Help Desk, which is essentially a place where you can go for technical assistance, problems you may have on a range of different technical or legal issues or policy issues. So we encourage you to make great use of it and to describe each of these pillars in more detail. I'd like to pass it on to the Broadband Equity Partnership team. Specifically first to Maya Wagoner, who is the design lead.
Maya Wagoner, NBRH Team: [00:07:59] Thank you so much, Kyle. That was a great introduction to the Hub. So I'll just screenshare so we can just walk through it together. But essentially what we're finding is that there are obviously millions of people who are struggling to access high speed, affordable internet. And somewhat recently, especially because of the pandemic, there's thousands of localities that are now being-- that are focusing on this work and that are looking for ways to, to provide that access or to create that access. But people are new to this space and need help and information. So there's a situation where thousands of local governments and state governments are essentially reinventing the wheel. And so we wanted to create a space where people can both talk amongst peers and to people who had a little bit more experience in this space, and to just look at what is the current research in the space, or what are those how-to guides and analysis. So I'll just share my screen and you can look at the Hub itself. And it's that broadbandhub.org. So it's up now if anyone wants to visit on their own. So for now, I'll just focus on the Resource Library, which is resources that you can look at on your own, a curated collection of public interest resources. A lot of the information in this space is coming from vendors or companies that have a stated interest in this, and we want it to sort of provide this perspective of all these public interest and academic reputable sources. And so this is meant for anyone from beginners, or people who might have expertise in one area but are new to broadband, all the way up through experts that want to go in depth and see what the most up to date critical information is.
Maya Wagoner, NBRH Team: [00:09:59] So. There's a few ways to use this. We have these starter guides that are just curated, quick information. So let's just start with Broadband 101. So these are just some guidebooks and some newsletters that, if you are brand new to broadband, if you don't know what broadband is, or just need to understand what all these new acronyms and terms are, this is a great place to start. All of these are made specifically for people like you that just need a first place to start. So that's one of the resource guides, and we have others. And then in the Resource Library, this is sort of the more in-depth search. So CTC Technology & Energy has curated over six hundred resources that have all been read through, categorized, and are all definitely high quality pieces of information of various types. And so you can search in here by topic or by what the document type is. So let's-- I thought this was interesting, is that there's podcasts! I'm a podcast listener, so might search for... This is an easier way for me to get up to speed on some of this information while I'm driving around or washing my dishes. So these are all podcasts that have to do with broadband. You can also clear the filters and search for, let's say, telehealth. So, yeah, it looks like there's 23 resources on telehealth, so these are reports, articles, data display, all about this topic. And so what we found, I think from talking to users across the country is that a lot of the questions people-- there's not necessarily frequently asked questions, as much as there's a lot of specific questions that people have around mapping, all kinds of things.
Maya Wagoner, NBRH Team: [00:12:12] So we wanted to create just a lot, a lot of information that people can sort of narrow down to their community's particular needs. And so, as I said, this is all curated and selected resources, but we also accept submissions. So if something is not here that you think should be in here, strongly recommend just submitting it. So there's a content submission form here and like, let's say you search for, I don't know, "Rooftop." Ok, so nothing came up for that. So you can either-- there's a few paths that you can take if something's not in here because obviously we're still expanding and want to provide the most complete information. So either you can ask peers in Community Conversations, which is sort of a social area for folks across the country who are working on this. You can ask the Help Desk, which is: "My particular community is dealing with something very specific to us and we need some targeted help." And you can ask with the Help Desk or if you know that there's something out there, you can definitely recommend it and it might get added and help other other people. So, yeah, there's lots to explore here. So I strongly recommend checking it out for yourself and seeing what's available. But for now, I will hand it off to Dana Floberg, who is our Community Lead who's been facilitating the Community Conversations space.
Dana Floberg, NBRH Team: [00:13:46] Awesome, thank you so much, Maya, and thank you to everyone for joining this. My name is Dana. I use they and she pronouns. If you've been in the community conversation space for the National Broadband Resource Hub, you've probably seen me floating around there, posting and trying to help answer any questions that folks have. And yeah, I'm here today to talk a little bit more about the Community Conversations piece of this Hub. As Kyle kind of previewed, the goal for the Community Conversations space is to not just have a number of resources that people can use that have been vetted, that are high-quality resources, but also to create space for there to be conversation about those resources, and for state government leaders, local leaders, nonprofit broadband leaders to connect with each other, to build relationships, to share learning, to learn together, and to try to really create a sense of community that can grow as all of our many different communities start investing and figuring out new ways to build a really strong broadband future. So to walk folks through this process, I am also going to share my screen really quick. We're going to go back to the National Broadband Resource Hub as a main page. And if you are at the National Broadband Resource Hub page and you want to start navigating over to Community Conversations, you're going to go right up to the top and just click on Community.
Dana Floberg, NBRH Team: [00:15:28] That will take you to our lovely Hub Community Conversations space. Will probably take you to our home space where you can kind of see all sorts of different posts that have been shared, all different kinds of questions that folks are asking, or resources, or events. If you haven't joined the Community Conversations space yet, the way that you do that is you'll go to this Welcome space here on the left and click on "Join the Community." Here you can find a link to our application. Application sounds much more complicated than it is. We're basically just looking to know who you are, who you represent, so that we can make sure that this community really is focused on broadband leaders in state, local governments, and nonprofits. We have a really quick turnaround for approving these applications. So if you haven't joined, it's very easy to join. If you know someone who you think would appreciate being a part of this community, you can direct them here, direct them to this link, and they should be able to join in fairly short order. If you have already joined the community, the Welcome tab is still very helpful for just helping to orient yourself to this space, to the community, and to some of the practices of just how to use it. We have our Community Guidelines posted here, just some general principles about trying to be respectful of other folks in this space, to keep conversations open, as well as some general tips about how to use the many different spaces that we have here, the different channels that you could be posting in or sharing questions. We also in the Welcome space have a link here to our feedback form. The National Broadband Resource Hub is still in beta and we are very much interested in getting feedback from folks learning what about this space is working for you and what's maybe not working as well as it could. The goal really is to build the Community Conversations piece, as well as the Hub generally, into something that is really useful for this community. So this is absolutely a space to come to, to share your thoughts, so that we can all make sure that we're listening and that we're learning from the folks we're trying to serve. We also have an FAQs space here. This is mostly useful if you're having some issues setting up your profile, letting folks know where you're where from, what kinds of organizations or offices you're representing, if you want to get more notifications from this platform, or if you maybe want fewer notifications. This will give you some advice for just making sure that this tool is set up so that you can engage with this community in the way that works best for you. We have a number of other spaces where you can have conversations with other members who are part of this platform.
Dana Floberg, NBRH Team: [00:18:30] Our main ones here are our discussion spaces. These spaces are mostly organized by topic. You can come and talk to folks about federal funding, state broadband plans, local conversations, data and mapping issues, infrastructure and operations. And we're always open to starting new spaces. If you feel like there's an issue area here that's not included, that's something that-- this community is supposed to be dynamic. We'll shift those to try and meet the requests that we're hearing from the community. I do want to highlight a space that I imagine many folks on this call have already seen, but fairly new to Community Conversations is our Events space. This is our first live webinar that the Hub is hosting, but we've already got some other exciting events on the docket in the upcoming weeks. We're going to continue to use this space to highlight those upcoming events that we're hosting, as well as other events in the space that are being hosted by other organizations and entities that we think state and local broadband leaders and nonprofit leaders will find useful. For example, the next upcoming virtual listening session that the NTIA is hosting, we're going to have this hopefully be a space where you can come and say, "What's going on in broadband right now? What are some of the events I can tune into to listen to experts, to ask questions and learn?" We also have a number of community spaces.
Dana Floberg, NBRH Team: [00:20:04] When you sign up and you are invited to join the Community Conversations platform, you will automatically gain access to a community space where you can talk just with other people who are in a similar role. So we have one for state government leaders to talk to each other, for city and local government leaders to talk to each other, for nonprofit leaders, and for philanthropy leaders, so that you have a space where you can connect with folks who may be doing work completely across the country from where you are, but are in a similar situation and grappling with similar questions. So I would encourage-- there's a lot here, and there's going to continue to be more as we expand and as this community grows, I would definitely encourage folks to sign up, fill out your profile, explore, post any questions or announcements from all of the great work that you are doing in your own community, and to share with your colleagues if you think that they also would appreciate joining this community and having access to this space for shared learning. That is kind of a low-down on Community Conversations, we'll be happy to answer any other questions at the end. But in the meantime, I'm going to turn it over to my excellent colleague Ana Licona.
Ana Licona, NBRH Team: [00:21:29] Thank you, Dana. And hi, everyone, welcome to our first Hub Huddle. Glad you can all join us. I will be walking us through our third and last pillar, which Kyle introduced us to earlier today, and that is the Help Desk. And I will actually also share my screen so that we can be guided together and walk through the Help Desk together. So to navigate the Help Desk, you can do so through our main home page. At the very top, you'll see a banner that says Help Desk. And you will be taken to our Help Desk site. So as a reminder, we do want to remind all of our users that we do have a free resource for you to use and to take advantage of. And so our goal with this Help Desk is for us to answer your specific questions, questions that you have that might not be answered through the Resource Library or through Community Conversations. You can come to this website and submit a request. So we can easily go to this ticket form and you'll be able to answer all of these questions. Specifically, we would love to know what specific questions you have in this box.
Ana Licona, NBRH Team: [00:22:49] So some examples of past tickets that we have received and that we have been able to help individuals with have been, we received a request on RFP templates for a middle mile for a state. And so we were able to connect that individual with someone from our team to help them walk through that, but also to help them connect with others on Community Conversations as well, where there have already been conversations on middle mile plans and state plans, et cetera. Another example that we have received is someone needed help in submitting comments for NTIA, so we were able to guide them through that process as well and ensure that they have the correct links for the NTIA website, et cetera, et cetera. So we just wanted to remind you all that this is a free resource for you to use and our team on the back end works to answer your requests and match you with someone from our team if guidance is needed for your specific request. And so with that, I will stop sharing my screen and pass it on to my colleague Jared.
Jared Lewis, NBRH Team: [00:24:01] Thank you, Anna. And hello, everyone, welcome. So you've heard a bit about what the platform has to offer, which is a lot. Let's talk about where we're going. For one, we'll continue to expand our partnerships in order to feed opportunities to the users to you, the folks who are doing the work on the ground. For example, we announced that we developed a partnership with three talent organizations to support state and local offices with fellows who can, for a period of time, support the office in their work in expanding and building broadband programs. We'll continue to think of and ideate on similarly oriented partnerships to find the resources that will help you do the work. Additionally, we'll continue to expand resources on the platform, so we will continue adding resources to the Resource Library, as Maya indicated earlier. If there are resources that you would like to see but don't see, you can fill out a request via the request form. But you can also email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are always available via that email address and able to answer questions or concerns. Also, as these Hub Huddles continue to expand, we have a range of event opportunities and we'll continue to think of events that would be of use to you. But we're also always open to partnering with you to talk about programing that has worked in your respective state or organization, as well as to bring content that is of use.
Jared Lewis, NBRH Team: [00:25:41] This week we have rolled out the NBRH blog. Currently, there are two articles on that blog. They include "How to Staff Your Broadband Office," as well as an article about the fellowship opportunities. Again, if there are articles that you'd be interested in seeing, please let us know. For example, we got a request to do an article on the science of fiber, which we are looking to roll out in the next month or so. You know, as we move forward, I think the way to think of us is as your partner in success, we want to be nimble, we want to be flexible, and we want to be supportive of the work that your office is doing. So if you have ideas on how we could be more responsive and can be helpful, please reach out. You can also reach out to Schmidt Futures as well as the Ford Foundation. Kyle's email is posted in the chat for everyone to see, and we will respond and figure out a way to be collaborative and supportive of your work. We're here to serve you. Thank you for joining our first Hub Huddle! There are more to come. But I'd like to pause now for any questions that folks may have. Please post them in the chat. And while we're waiting for some of those questions to come in, one question that we've received, Dana-- What type of content can folks post in Community Conversations?
Dana Floberg, NBRH Team: [00:27:08] Yeah, so anything really that's related to building broadband, or making sure broadband is affordable and equitably available, or collecting data about broadband. We've seen so far a lot of folks posting news articles to share examples of how different communities are building their own networks, are collaborating to collect data on what the digital divide looks like in their state or in their region. We've seen folks posting questions asking for help filing comments, trying to connect with other leaders who are experimenting with different strategies so that they can share best practices. We've seen a lot of things, and it's very much meant to be a very open space for conversation. So I would say you can expect to see kind of anything that you're interested in and that anyone else on this platform is interested in. We specifically have a space, the General space is meant for if you go to the conversation space and you don't see the right channel, you can find it. So it's a very open space for all of that, for people to post. And if you don't see what you're looking for, very easy to add it.
Jared Lewis, NBRH Team: [00:28:28] Thank you so much, Dana. And seeing no additional questions, we'll go ahead and move to close out our first Hub Huddle. Just as a reminder, these Hub Huddles take place on Fridays, 1 p.m. Eastern. We will try to keep them as frequent as possible, but likely at least bi-monthly, so keep an eye out for that. We do have the next one occurring next week, which is focused on our fellowship opportunities. Also want to remind folks to sign up for our newsletter. You can do that on the main page www.broadbandhub.org. And thank you again for joining! I hope this has been very informative to the work, and we are here to be a resource for you. So feel free to reach out to Schmidt Futures or the Ford Foundation, or the NBRH team at email@example.com. Thank you so much.
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