Technology

CSG Midwest
This spring, as schools across the nation shut down in-person instruction due to the COVID-19 pandemic, North Dakota and broadband service providers in the state stepped up.
The result was a quick reduction in what has been dubbed the “homework gap.”
“What’s really impressive is that in a matter of weeks, North Dakota was able to get 90 percent of unconnected student homes hooked up to broadband,” Jack Lynch, state engagement director for the nonprofit group EducationSuperHighway, said during a July 30 webinar held by three committees of The Council of State Governments’ Midwestern Legislative Conference.
The gap in student access to internet connectivity is nothing new. What’s changed, though, is the urgency among state policymakers to address the problem, as schools rely more on remote learning to replace some or all in-person instruction and to ensure the continuity of learning if buildings have to be closed due to health- or weather-related events.

CSG Midwest
When a county in Indiana Rep. Randy Frye's district proposed a tax increase to build a new jail in order to relieve overcrowding, his constituents balked. After noticing their opposition to the tax increase, he wanted to get to the root of the issue....

What does Barr v. American Association of Political Consultants have to do with state and local governments? The question the Supreme Court will decide in this case is whether allowing robocalls for government-debt only violates the First Amendment. State and local governments aren’t likely recipients of such calls.

In one word the answer is Reed; as in Reed v. Town of Gilbert (2015). In Reed the Supreme Court held that strict (usually fatal)-scrutiny applies to content-based restrictions on speech, and the Court defined content-based broadly. In short Reed was a bad decision for state and local governments, which regularly regulate content-based speech.  

The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) prohibits automatic dialing or prerecorded calls to cell phones with three exceptions—emergencies, consent, and debt collection owed to or guaranteed by the United States. The American Association of Political Consultants claims the third exception violates the First Amendment.

CSG Midwest
A new Ohio law is taking aim at what state election officials and legislators say is a growing threat — cyber attacks. Under SB 52, signed into law in October, an Ohio Cyber Reserve will be created as a division of the state National Guard. It will consist of cyber-security experts who can help deter and mitigate attacks. This force will work with local governments and businesses.
CSG Midwest
In rural areas that lack access to high-speed internet, the productivity of farm operations is hurt, and access to telemedicine, distance education and e-commerce opportunities is hindered. That disconnectedness, Nebraska Sen. Curt Friesen says, is the reality for too many of his state’s residents.
Officially, about 37 percent of rural Nebraskans lack access to broadband, a figure based on data from the Federal Communications Commission. But Friesen believes the percentage is even higher, because the FCC’s use of census blocks to measure broadband likely overestimates access. (The federal agency is, in fact, now changing how it collects data in order to get more accurate figures.)
Friesen is hopeful, though, that a mix of recent policy changes and new recommendations can help begin closing the state’s connectivity gap. This fall, a rural broadband task force laid out a plan for state action. According to Friesen, who served on the task force and sponsored the legislation creating it (LB 994 from 2018), two strategies stand out as ways to help build out broadband in Nebraska: one, modernizaton of the state’s Universal Service Fund (USF); and two, support for the Public Service Commission’s use of “reverse auctions.”
CSG Midwest
In rural areas that lack access to high-speed internet, the productivity of farm operations is hurt, and access to telemedicine, distance education and e-commerce opportunities is hindered. That disconnectedness, Nebraska Sen. Curt Friesen says, is the reality for too many of his state’s residents.
Officially, about 37 percent of rural Nebraskans lack access to broadband, a figure based on data from the Federal Communications Commission. But Friesen believes the percentage is even higher, because the FCC’s use of census blocks to measure broadband likely overestimates access. (The federal agency is, in fact, now changing how it collects data in order to get more accurate figures.)
Friesen is hopeful, though, that a mix of recent policy changes and new recommendations can help begin closing the state’s connectivity gap. This fall, a rural broadband task force laid out a plan for state action. According to Friesen, who served on the task force and sponsored the legislation creating it (LB 994 from 2018), two strategies stand out as ways to help build out broadband in Nebraska: one, modernizaton of the state’s Universal Service Fund (USF); and two, support for the Public Service Commission’s use of “reverse auctions.”
CSG Midwest
In rural areas that lack access to high-speed internet, the productivity of farm operations is hurt, and access to telemedicine, distance education and e-commerce opportunities is hindered. That disconnectedness, Nebraska Sen. Curt Friesen says, is the reality for too many of his state’s residents.
Officially, about 37 percent of rural Nebraskans lack access to broadband, a figure based on data from the Federal Communications Commission. But Friesen believes the percentage is even higher, because the FCC’s use of census blocks to measure broadband likely overestimates access. (The federal agency is, in fact, now changing how it collects data in order to get more accurate figures.)
Friesen is hopeful, though, that a mix of recent policy changes and new recommendations can help begin closing the state’s connectivity gap. This fall, a rural broadband task force laid out a plan for state action. According to Friesen, who served on the task force and sponsored the legislation creating it (LB 994 from 2018), two strategies stand out as ways to help build out broadband in Nebraska: one, modernizaton of the state’s Universal Service Fund (USF); and two, support for the Public Service Commission’s use of “reverse auctions.”
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Guest

CSG Leadership Circle member Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, or PhRMA, made a three-year grant commitment to support science, technology, engineering and math initiatives in a public school in San Juan, Puerto Rico, that sustained severe damage during Hurricane Maria. PhRMA’s STEM Talent Pipeline grant was awarded to the school in November 2019 for the second consecutive year.  Joined by New York City and New York State officials, PhRMA recently led a day of service to help rebuild the school.

The...

CSG Midwest
In a national report on policies to promote K-12 instruction in computer science, Indiana is singled out as one of the nation’s five leading states.
Authors of the September study say that 45 percent of the nation’s high schools teach computer science. They note, too, that certain groups of students are more likely to attend a school that does not offer instruction in this subject area — minorities, young people living in rural areas, and low-income students. How can states close this gap? The “2019 State of Computer Science Education: Equity and Diversity” identifies nine policies in areas such as certification, professional development, statewide standards, and a requirement that all secondary schools offer computer science.

The D.C. Circuit upheld most of the Federal Communications Commission’s 2018 order retreating from net neutrality. But the court struck down the portion of the order disallowing states and local governments from adopting measures preempting the order. Numerous states and local governments challenged the legality of the order. 

Net neutrality requires internet service providers to treat all Internet communications the same and not block, speed up or slow down any content. Net neutrality was federal policy until the 2018 order.

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