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Lack of Awareness Sees Michigan Schools And Libraries Miss Out on E-Rate Funding: State Coordinator

Derek Shumway



Photo of Joe Polasek taken from his LinkedIn page

March 30, 2021 – Despite expanded funding for the E-Rate internet subsidy program for schools and libraries, the Michigan State program coordinator said there’s an awareness problem that is causing those institutions to miss out on money in the state.

“I don’t know any school or library that feels they have enough funding,” Joe Polasek said at the “Connecting Michigan Communities: Digital Education in Michigan” event, hosted by Connected Nation Michigan.

The E-Rate program is based on free and reduced lunch eligibility reported by schools and can support schools’ recurring or one-time service costs for internet. In some cases, the program can cover up to 90 percent of an internet service bill, something Polasek would like to see more schools and libraries take advantage of in his state.

There have been recent legislative proposals to extend the E-Rate to cover internet subsidies to the home.

If a school or library qualifies for E-Rate funding, it can then use money that would have gone toward paying the internet bill for other needs like technology or education improvements.

While a growing number of schools are eligible in the program, the need to push libraries to qualify is even greater. Three years ago, 50 percent of Michigan libraries were participating in the E-Rate program, said Polasek. Libraries need to be aware of the benefits and help available to them in accessing much-needed funds and filing proper paperwork to qualify.

To date, Polasek said efforts to raise awareness of E-Rate funding have grown steadily, which has culminated in nearly 65 percent of libraries now receiving E-Rate funding.

Polasek’s role as a state coordinator is to facilitate the application process for prospective schools and libraries. He made it clear that he cannot actually file the paperwork on behalf of the applicant, but he is there to answer any questions and educate.

The verification process for E-Rate can be tricky to handle, he said. Confirming that the student count and discount rate are accurate is important because money is on the line.

Editor’s Note: A previous version of this story said that the E-Rate program was recently expanded to cover subsidies to the home. The story has been corrected to say that various legislative proposals have been introduced to achieve that. As it is, the E-Rate program is based on free and reduced lunch eligibility reported by schools and can support schools’ recurring or one-time service costs for the internet.


Libraries Must Be Vigilant To Ensure Adequate Broadband, Consultants Say

Derek Shumway



Photo of Stephanie Stenberg via Internet2

April 7, 2021 – Libraries should monitor their broadband speeds and ensure they are getting quality connections, according to library consultants.

Carson Block from Carson Block Consulting and Stephanie Stenberg of the Internet2 Community Anchor program told a virtual conference hosted by the American Library Association on Tuesday that it’s time libraries take a closer look at how they are getting broadband and if they are getting the speeds they are paying for. If not, they said they should re-negotiate.

Block and Stenberg shared details about the “Towards Gigabit Libraries” (TGL) toolkit, a free, self-service guide for rural and tribal libraries to better understand and improve their broadband. The new toolkit helps libraries prepare for E-Rate internet subsidy requests to aid their budget cycles.

It also has tips about communicating effectively between library and tech people since there is a gap in knowledge between those two groups. The TGL is supported by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and Gigabit Libraries and Beyond (GLG) to improve the toolkit and expand throughout the United States. In addition to focusing on rural and tribal libraries, now urban libraries will be included for support.

During the event, a live poll showed all participating attendees said they “very infrequently” had technical IT support available in their home libraries. Stenberg said this confirmed TGL’s findings that libraries need more tech and IT support, as the majority of respondents in previous surveys gave similar concerning results.

To really emphasize the need for adequate broadband and support at libraries, another question was asked to live attendees about their current level of expertise around procuring and delivering access to broadband as a service in their library, assuming that the majority of attendees worked for libraries. All participants said they possess “no experience” trying to get broadband in the library.

Common issues that are to blame include libraries with insufficient bandwidth, data wiring or poorly set-up networks. Old and obsolete equipment also contributed to bad Wi-Fi coverage.

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Schools And Libraries Look For Solutions With $7 Billion In Federal Help

Derek Shumway



Screenshot from SHLB event

April 6, 2021 – In a webinar last week hosted by the Schools, Health, and Libraries Broadband Coalition (SHLB), panelists discussed opportunities schools and libraries have to better serve their communities with the recent $7 billion provided through the American Rescue Plan, a $1.98 trillion coronavirus relief package passed by Congress and signed into law by President Biden on last month.

Laura Cole, director at the BiblioTech public library, shared how a successful pilot program with Southwest Independent School District made a goal to provide digital access to 100 students. To date, 62 students had broadband installed with the remaining still being worked on. The project was done to act as a proof-of-concept for digital connection expansion in Bexar County, Texas, where broadband access rates are low. Though the program’s success has caused it to be extended through December 31, 2021, Cole said she recognizes that there needs to be a more permanent solution to close the digital divide in all areas where people lack internet.

At the Brooklyn Public Library in New York City, Selvon Smith, president of information technology and chief information officer at the library, said that collaborative programs with the New York Public Library, Queens Public Library, and the New York City Department of Education were able to provide thousands of free hotspot devices for the entire school year to under-connected people. The organizations created a “Bookmobile Wi-Fi” program that was comprised of three vans and one truck stocked with laptops and outfitted with Wi-Fi antennas.

And it’s not just libraries that benefitted from the $7 billion provided through the American Rescue Plan. Rajesh Adusumilli, assistant superintendent for information services at Arlington County public schools (APS), said his organization worked to address student connectivity needs throughout the pandemic. The rollout of the 1-2-3 Connect Me pilot program was a core part along with maintaining Comcast’s Internet Essentials Program sponsorship and continuing to provide devices and wireless access hotspots at Arlington’s public schools.

This pilot program was financed by the Virginia governor’s Fasttrack Broadband Funding program, and is an extension of broadband services off of the APS and county-owned fiber network.

It uses technology on the Citizens Broadband Radio Service spectrum band, which has allowed private networks solely meant for students. It allows for students to connect to the APS network from home so they can continue distance learning instruction and access APS resources. It also can save money as it does not require the county to build additional fiber to create the extension.

Now, all Arlington Public Schools are set up with wireless access, with 99.2 percent of all APS students having participated successfully in synchronous learning activities.

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Educators Worry About ‘Zoom Fatigue’ In Students, Recommend Innovative Teaching Techniques

Derek Shumway



Screenshot taken from Broadband Live Online event

March 24, 2021 – Educators must come up with ways to enhance the online learning experience or students will end up suffering from “Zoom fatigue” and falling behind, the Broadband Breakfast live event heard Wednesday.

David Weinberger, senior researcher at Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society, said students suffer from staring at a screen all day – “Zoom fatigue” — and need to be stimulated with higher-quality education. He said he hopes and expects distanced learning technology will improve the digital experience, which is an endeavor that requires more resources.

And students want high-quality remote learning, said panelist Charles Severance, clinical professor of information at the University of Michigan School of Information. That means that if demand is not met by educational institutions, then virtual learning may not be here to stay – potentially hobbling the system once again in the event the nation would need to reinstitute at-home learning.

But lawmakers and parents are seemingly waiting for the opportunity to have students return to in-person classes, a call that assumes students are better educated in the physical setting.

Educators on the ground, however, know that some students do better with – and in fact prefer – virtual learning than they do with in-person learning. In an interview with Broadband Breakfast on Monday, William Jeffery, the assistant principal at Columbia High School in the Columbia-Brazoria Independent School District in Texas, said students should therefore have a choice between virtual and in-person learning.

That hybrid model was also recommended on Wednesday’s live event.

Lori Williams, president and CEO of the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements, said different populations have different needs, and said many large institutions will continue instructing online, while others may stick with hybrid models, and some will try to go back to the traditional in-person method of teaching.

Regardless of what the institution chooses, she said students should be able to choose their own experience. The decision is no easier to make on a higher-ed level than it is for K-12 public schools.

Severance said that over just one weekend, the University of Michigan went from having about less than 1 percent of its credit offerings being online to the entire school’s offerings moving online, as it made the decision to shut down last March of 2020.

He said the school has historically been opposed to online education, and that though many of its faculty struggled with being forced to go digital, Severance saw it as a seriously challenging, yet huge opportunity to adapt and still give a quality educational experience.

But that shift requires money. As the country has dramatically shifted its education systems to virtual learning platforms, money and resources are needed to support the unforeseen demand. That’s why some say programs like the $3.2 billion Emergency Broadband Benefit program funded by Congress in December 2020 will see strong demand and will likely see all its funds spent.

Author and e-learning professional Badrul Khan, who was a panelist in the event, said education should be cost-effective and accessible, wherever it is happening.

Our Broadband Breakfast Live Online events take place every Wednesday at 12 Noon ET. You can watch the March 24, 2021, event on this page. You can also PARTICIPATE in the current Broadband Breakfast Live Online event. REGISTER HERE.

Wednesday, March 24, 2021, 12 Noon ET — “The State of Online Higher Education”

  • It was one year ago this month that our nation shut down because of the coronavirus. Broadband Breakfast Live Online launched on March 13, 2020, as a way to connect people about the solutions that broadband could provide to the trials raised by the COVID-19 pandemic. Our first episode was on “Broadband, the Coronavirus and Education,” and in this session, we’ll check in with experts on the state of online higher education – one year in.


  • Dr. Badrul Khan, Author and E-Learning & Instructional Design Professional
  • Dr. Charles Severance, Clinical Professor of Information, University of Michigan School of Information
  • Dr. Lori Williams, President and CEO of the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (NC-SARA)
  • Dr. David Weinberger, Writer and Affiliate of Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society
  • Drew Clark (moderator), Editor and Publisher, Broadband Breakfast

Dr. Badrul Khan coined the phrase Web-based instruction with his 1997 best-selling Web-Based Instruction book which paved the way for the new field of e-learning, Recognized as the founder of modern e-learning by 2014 NATO e-Learning Forum, he was inducted into the United States Distance Learning Association Hall of Fame. He has authored or contributed to fifteen books and over 100 manuscripts in e-learning, his Managing E-learning book has been translated into 23 languages including Bangla. He is the host of KDW TV show on FOX 5 PLUS Washington, DC. and is the founder of, a micro-learning based Knowledge Carrier Platform.

Dr. Charles Severance is a Clinical Professor and teaches in the School of Information at the University of Michigan. He teaches over popular Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs) including Python for Everybody – the most popular online programming course in the world on the Coursera, edX, and FutureLearn platforms. He is also a long-time advocate of open source educational technology and open educational resources to empower teachers. Previously he was the Executive Director of the Sakai Foundation and the Chief Architect of the Sakai Project. Dr. Severance has written several books including “Using the Google App Engine”, “Python for Informatics”, “High Performance Computing”, and “Sakai: Free as in Freedom”.

Dr. Lori Williams is president and CEO of NC-SARA and has over 25 years’ experience in education. Prior to this role, she served as vice president at the WASC Senior College and University Commission. Dr. Williams has spoken at national and international conferences about adult and online learning, and served as professor, thesis advisor, and mentor. She holds a Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary Studies with a concentration in Education Leadership from Union Institute & University, an M.A. in Applied Linguistics and Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages from Saint Michael’s College, and a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University.

Dr. David Weinberger writes about the effect of technology  — particularly the Internet and machine learning  — on our ideas and lives. Most recently he was a writer-in-residence at Google AI, and before that he co-directed Harvard’s Library Innovation lab. Dr. Weinberger has long been affiliated with Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center and has been a philosophy professor, a Franklin Fellow at the US State Department and a book editor. He holds a doctorate in philosophy from the University of Toronto.

Panelist Resources

WATCH HERE, or on YouTubeTwitter and Facebook.

As with all Broadband Breakfast Live Online events, the FREE webcasts will take place at 12 Noon ET on Wednesday.

SUBSCRIBE to the Broadband Breakfast YouTube channel. That way, you will be notified when events go live. Watch on YouTubeTwitter and Facebook

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