by Dick Hall-Sizemore
One of the issues underlined by the pandemic was the need for all areas of the state to have access to broadband internet. Without access to broadband, kids (and adults) in rural areas cannot take advantage of courses offered online. To the extent that more people will be working remotely, rural areas need access to broadband in order for those people to move there. Broadband accessibility is necessary for almost all businesses and industries and rural areas will need to have such accessibility if they hope to convince private companies to bring new jobs to their areas.
Thanks to federal funding, the Commonwealth is well on its way to achieving universal availability. The source of most of that funding is the American Rescue Plan (ARP), enacted in early 2021 as part of the Biden administration’s efforts to offset the economic effects of the COVID pandemic. In July of last year, the Northam administration and the General Assembly announced an agreement to allocate $700 million of the state’s ARP funding to broadband expansion. Several months later, that amount grew by $220 million as a result of an allocation from another section of the ARP. Finally, it is expected that Virginia will get $65 million for broadband expansion from the federal infrastructure bill passed last fall. Continue reading
Credit; McKnight’s Long Term Care News
by James C. Sherlock
The road to hell really is paved with good intentions.
The current Virginia State Telehealth Plan was published just less than a year ago.
The purpose of the Plan is to promote an integrated approach to the introduction and use of telehealth services in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
In 2020, the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) created a process for the development of a Statewide Telehealth plan. To achieve this goal, a process was designed with multiple phases to maximize the engagement and buy‐in of stakeholders from across the state. Building upon the progress of the 2020 VDH and Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association (VHHA) led COVID‐19 Amplified Response‐Telehealth Workgroup, VDH convened 6 additional workgroups to bring together key stakeholders around the priority areas as addressed in HB1332 …
A partnership between VDH and VHHA. Stakeholders. Focused on priority areas addressed in HB 1332.
The goals of these workgroup sessions included developing consensus of workgroup members through a virtual meeting format and written survey methods for identified high priority level needs and strategies for flexible actions and lessons learned from the COVID‐19 amplified response; receiving feedback in a formal state process through public comment, identifying barriers and challenges in creating a statewide telehealth infrastructure, and establishing set goals for advancing the adoption and utilization of telehealth as a mechanism for meeting identified health needs.
Identified barriers and challenges. Established set goals. Six core strategies.
by Dick Hall-Sizemore
Tried to get into the Legislative Information System lately? If you did, you were likely greeted by the following message:
We’re experiencing a service outage with some of our servers. The Budget Portal, Law Portal, Reports to the General Assembly, and some other data may not be accessible. Our team is currently working to restore the service. We apologize for any inconvenience.
This is not a case of servers acting up. As reported by the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the legislature has been hit by a ransomware attack. The malware has shut down systems used by the legislative branch; most problematically, the system used by the Division of Legislative Services to draft and submit bills. This is their busy season. For some reason, only some features of the Legislative Information System have been affected. The bill-status system is working.
The attack has not affected agencies in the executive branch. The two branches have separate IT systems. However, the Dept. of State Police and VITA (the executive branch’s IT agency) are providing assistance to the Division of Legislative Automated Systems (DLAS). Continue reading
Virginians for Safe Technology has launched a petition to halt the deployment of 5G wireless technology. Bacon’s Rebellion does not endorse the petition but does believe that the issues it raises are worth discussing. Next-generation wireless is critical infrastructure. The sooner the concerns are addressed, the better. — JAB
To our elected and appointed officials and the big business Non-Governmental Organizations tasked with making decisions regarding technology across the beautiful State of Virginia on our behalf:
We, the people of Virginia, do not consent to this involuntary exposure of 5G blanketed wireless radiation and we believe current and future generations of Virginians deserve to be protected.
Thousands of peer reviewed research studies show the negative health effects of radiation from wireless technologies. As such, 5G Next Generation and beyond (5G+) wireless technology poses significant risks to humans — especially young children — animals and the environment. (www.BioInitiative.org) Yet, 5G+ has never been required to be safety tested for mmWave phased array health effects by you or the industries implementing this technology, and thus constitutes a human experiment without consent.
Source: “Bringing Broadband to America”
by James A. Bacon
Reputable estimates of the cost of making high-capacity Internet service universal across the United States run in the $80-billion to $85-billion range, but the society-wide benefits may be worth the outlay, argues Alexander Marré, a Baltimore-based regional economist with the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond in a recent paper.
There are multiple benefits, Marré contends. Broadband has positive effects for business-location decisions and employment growth in rural areas, research data shows (although effects can be stronger in rural areas that are closer to metropolitan areas than more remote regions). Broadband also enables rural consumers to choose from a wider array of goods and services, potentially saving more than $1,000 per household. High-speed Internet also can improve the efficiency of rural labor markets. It can improve access to healthcare via telemedicine and distance learning. And, as a desirable amenity, it can boosts home values.
The low density of businesses and households makes deployment of broadband infrastructure costlier than in metropolitan areas, and for-profit telecom companies can’t justify the low return on investment. But if the social benefits are as extensive as Marré contends, rural communities have a different cost-benefit calculus. His article explores several alternatives for bringing broadband to rural communities, including a Shenandoah Telecommunications (Shentel) projectin Virginia. Continue reading
More wind turbines off the Mid-Atlantic coast. Electricity from the Kitty Hawk Offshore Wind project 27 miles off the coast of Corolla, N.C., construction of which could begin as soon as 2024, will be funneled into the electric grid via a substation in Virginia Beach’s Sandbridge community. Roughly 600 jobs will be generated within the Hampton Roads statistical area, which includes part of North Carolina. The project is expected to generate 2,500 megawatts of electricity eventually, enough to power 700,000 homes, reports Virginia Business. From Sandbridge a combination of underground and overhead cables will make the electricity available for resale by developer Avangrid Inc., to Dominion Energy, Duke Energy, Appalachian Power, and others.
No aggressive enforcement of COVID curfew. Chesterfield County police will not enforce Governor Ralph Northam’s midnight-to-5 p.m. COVID-19 curfew by stopping motorists who are otherwise driving lawfully. “The law requires officers to have reasonable suspicion to stop a driver,” wrote Police Chief Colonel Jeffery S. Katz on Facebook. “There are completely lawful reasons for people to be out and about during these times and therefore mere operation of a motor vehicle does not remotely meet the legal burden necessary to justify a lawful stop.” Responding to queries from The Virginia Star, Henrico County police and the Hanover County sheriffs department confirmed that they, too, require reasonable suspicion for conducting traffic stops.
Satellite broadband for Southwest Virginia. Wise County Public Schools will be the first school district in Virginia to use the Starlink satellite internet constellation founded by Elon Musk. The entrepreneur, better known for his Tesla electric vehicles, touts Starlink as delivering broadband to “locations where access has been unreliable, expensive, or completely unavailable.” Continue reading
A horse pulling fiber in Kentucky. Photo credit: Pro Publica
by DJ Rippert
A tale of two places. The next generation of consumer wireless technology is called Fifth Generation or 5G. It is being rolled out in select parts of the United States right now. 5G will be a boon to urban and suburban Virginia. Absent heavy government subsidies, it will likely have a minimal direct effect on rural Virginia. Of course, any technology that favors high population density areas over low population density areas expands the rural-urban gap. The reasons for 5G’s value in high density areas vs low density areas run the gamut from physics to economics. However, there are some engineering scenarios and demographic situations where 5G might be effective in select rural areas without massive governmental subsidies. Those will be discussed later in this post. And, of course, massive government subsidies are always on the table. Continue reading
by James A. Bacon
As K-12 schools, community colleges and universities shift ever more learning online, the so-called “digital divide” — disparate access to high-speed Internet access and computers — is looming as a bigger problem than ever before.
A new analysis by the State Council on Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) finds that more than 200,000 K-12 students (14%) and more than 60,000 college students (10%) lack broadband subscriptions in the home. The survey also found that 173,000 K-12 students (12%) and nearly 23,000 college students (4%) lack a laptop or desktop computer.
The lack of access to broadband is most acute in rural areas, where broadband infrastructure is spottiest, but is widespread in Virginia’s urban areas as well. Half of all students without devices live in urban areas.
“The research looked at whether students actually had broadband service in the home,” said Tom Allison, SCHEV’s senior associate for finance and innovation policy and author of the report, “rather than if it was available in their area. That is important because a household might have a dozen companies to choose from, but won’t benefit if they can’t afford it.” Continue reading
By Dick Hall-Sizemore
Here is a follow-up on a previous post. The Supreme Court handed down a decision today that will probably be lost in the coverage of its other decision released today, the one about “faithless” Presidential electors. Nevertheless, the decision in that other case, Barr v. American Association of Political Consultants, inc., saves us all some aggravation.
Current federal law prohibits robocalls to cell phones, except calls made exclusively to collect a federal debt. The association representing political consultants sued, arguing that the prohibition violated the First Amendment right of its members. In its ruling, the Supreme Court agreed that the law violated the First Amendment, but the political consultants did not get what they wanted. The Court’s ultimate decision was unanimous, but the Justices were remarkably split all over the place about the reasons for the outcome. There were four separate opinions filed. Continue reading
The Internet Research Agency in St. Petersburg, Russia
By Peter Galuszka
Around midnight Monday, reporters in downtown Washington D.C., stood by ready to cover the next round of protests about the slaying of African Americans by police.
They started getting tweets marked #dcblackout suggesting that internet service was being interrupted because of a secret program presumably run by the government that would cut them off.
The curious thing, NBC News reported, is that the reporters’ cell phones worked just fine. Later Twitter was contacted and began to investigate. It was curious that the questionable tweet seemed to be coming from the left-wing ANTIFA group that is said to have helped organize protests around the country.
A tweet labeled as been sourced with ANTIFA proclaimed “Tonight’s the night, comrades. Tonight we say F&*^The city and we move into the residential areas, the white hoods and we take what’s ours.”
Twitter quickly uncovered the problem. The tweets were fakes put out by a far-right white nationalist group called Identity Evropa. Twitter took down the sites because they violated the company’s policy against using social media to incite violence, NBC reported. Continue reading
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Laura Bacon raises a Quarantini (recipe available upon request) in preparation for our virtual book club.
by James A. Bacon
We’ve been in self-isolation for only a week, and already we’re getting cabin fever. Laura and I were especially disappointed by the cancellation of our bi-monthly book club meeting, which would have entailed gathering more than ten people in one place.
Fortunately, thanks to the miracles of technology — broadband and Zoom, in particular — we managed to gather virtually. Some of our group had used Zoom for business, but no one knew how the program would work as a social media. It turned out pretty well. It wasn’t as satisfying as conversing (and eating and drinking) in person, but it was a lot more fun than sitting around by ourselves and watching re-runs of “Nurse Jackie.” Continue reading