Other business, government, education and community organizations
AZBSN COVID-19 Digital Access Task Force
March 8 Design Team
March 8 Design Team
March 8, 2021
AZBSN COVID-19 Task Force Leadership/Design Team
Arizona Broadband Stakeholder Network
COVID-19 Digital Access Network
Steve Peters, Coordinator
Task Force Design Team
I want to thank all of you for volunteering to participate on the Task Force Leadership/Design Team. I am looking forward to all of you helping to identify priorities and the vision and strategy for the next phase of the Task Force development. I have created this Leadership Design Team web page that will outline what I think the charge is for this Team, provide a summary of the recommendations included in the Task Force report, and include other suggested initiatives that have been emerging.
This page includes:
Purpose of Design Team
I want to thank all of you for volunteering to participate on the Task Force Leadership/Design Team. I am looking forward to all of you helping to identify priorities and the vision and strategy for the next phase of the Task Force development. I have created this Leadership Design Team web page that will outline what I think the charge is for this Team, provide a summary of the recommendations included in the Task Force report, and include other suggested initiatives that have been emerging such as:
- Navigators for Emergency Broadband Benefit Program and FCC Lifeline Program for Broadband, Wireline or Wireless Services, and more
- Expanding the role of the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) in broadband deployment including modifying the current Arizona Universal Service Fund (AUSF)
- A statewide strategy to support communities and nonprofit 501(c)(3) organizations in applying for Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) funding
- Coordination Of Device Distribution Team
- Communication - Webinars, Newsletters
- Sun Corridor Network Strategic Plan
- Community and Schools Networks Coordination and Sharing
- Identify, coordinate and develop locally relevant collaborative technical support strategies
Meeting Agenda March 8, 2021
- Purpose Of The Planning And Design Team
- Content on this webpage
- Task Force Meetings and Networking
- How can we best work together
- Team Meeting Times
- Suggested immediate priorities
design Team Members
- Robert Alvarado, Chicanos Por La Causa, Vice President Information Management & Technology Services firstname.lastname@example.org 602-677-0663 M 602-677-0663
- Tracey Beal, School Connect, Executive Director, email@example.com M 602 670 6513
- Andrew Bevington, Pima County Superintendent of Schools Office, Director, Business & Education Partnerships Andrew.Bevington@pima.gov 520-742-8213 M 520-599-9987
- Melissa Boydston, Valley of the Sun United Way, Vice President of Community Development
- Wes Brownfield Arizona Rural Schools Association Executive Director firstname.lastname@example.org M 928-830-7182
- Kirk Busch, Big Data Southwest, CEO, email@example.com M 480-334-4997
- Terence Ford, Insight, Regional Services Account Executive - Enterprise
Terence.Ford@insight.com 480--889-9525 M 602-5701540
- Mark Goldstein, International Research Center, President,
firstname.lastname@example.org, 602-470-0389, M 602-670-6407
- John Kelly, TRIADVOCATES, Principal, John@triadvocates.com 602-229-5420, M 602-639-0852
- Ilana Lowery, Common Sense Media, Arizona Director, email@example.com, M 623-341-0177
- Janet Major, Arizona Telemedicine Program & Southwest Telehealth Resource Center, Associate Director for Education & Facilities, firstname.lastname@example.org, 520-626-0131, M 520-403-0736
- Derek Masseth, Sun Corridor Network, Executive Director, email@example.com,
520-906-8586, M 520-906-8586
- Sophia Mayberry, Arizona Department of Education, Project Manager
firstname.lastname@example.org 602-542-5423 M 602-541-3741
- Mala Muralidharan, Arizona State Library Archives and Public Records, E-rate Administrator for Public Libraries email@example.com, 602 364-4855, M 480-221-5120
- Mauricio Orozco, Care1st Health Plan, Arizona Manager, Community Engagement
firstname.lastname@example.org, 602-474-1302, M 480-282-3631
- Paul Ross, Phoenix College, Associate Vice President Chief Information Officer email@example.com, 602-285-7855, M 614-946-4500
- Karen Ziegler, Karen Ziegler Consulting Services, Principle,
firstname.lastname@example.org, M 602-799-2816
What's In The report
Table of Contents
The Report Includes
Recommendations at A glance
The report includes recommendations in the following areas:
- Technology and Infrastructure
- State and Community Digital Access Planning
- Funding and Resources Support Strategies
- State Broadband and Digital Inclusion Leadership, Policy and Regulation
- Technical Support and Professional Development for Education and the Community
- Public Access to Digital Resources
- Educational Digital Content and Resource Sharing
- Safe Operations of Schools, Libraries and Public Spaces in the COVID-19 Environment
Recommendations In Detail
Technology And Infrastructure
- Adopt an Arizona Definition of Broadband. The Task Force recommends that the State of Arizona adopt a goal of a minimum broadband speed of 100 Mbps download and 10 Mbps upload (100/10 Mbps) to guide infrastructure investments and program implementation similar to California Governor’s Executive Order. Going forward, a scalable standard should be employed as application bandwidth needs and network capacity continue to grow. The FCC currently defines broadband as an Internet connection at a speed of 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload (25/3 Mbps), which may be inadequate for a variety of emerging data intensive applications such as telemedicine. eLearning, augmented/mixed reality and IoT that will have ever increasing bandwidth requirements. A future-proofed K-20 education technology infrastructure is essential to enable modern digital- learning technologies and methods necessary for a workforce equipped for the knowledge-based economy.
- Sun Corridor Network: The Task Force recommends that the State engage in a strategic planning process to develop a short and long-term strategy, including new business models, to leverage the Sun Corridor Network (SCN), Arizona’s Research & Education Network, to connect and enable every school, library, community anchor institution, healthcare organization and public service in the State of Arizona with a high-capacity, responsive and available network. SCN currently provides access to the national Internet 2 research and education network for the three state universities, along with several community colleges and K12 districts across the State along with fast lanes to the public Internet. We support the SCN’s participation in ADOT’s investment in highway corridor fiber deployments along with the anticipated public-private partnership (P3) to grow and manage a robust State fiber network. This will lead to the improvement of rural broadband network capacity and availability across the region, as well as improved regional research collaborations. A future-proofed K-20 education technology infrastructure is essential to enable modern digital-learning technologies and methods necessary for a workforce equipped for the knowledge-based economy.
- Arizona’s Smart Highway Corridors: The Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) recently received a $40M allocation from the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund (GEER) to complete fiber builds between Flagstaff and Nogales on sections of I-17 and I-19. The Task Force recommends additional funding for comparable deployment of fiber along I-40 and other strategic segments. The Task Force also recommends that ADOT develop a robust business model, engage a public-private partner (P3) to manage these and other new fiber investments and work towards evolving Arizona’s regulations to allow a wide range of public and private communication uses on their fiber network. Arizona needs to continue to develop strategies and initiatives to further deployment of middle mile infrastructure to rural communities throughout the State.
The Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) is a model for how to make access to Rights-of-Way easier, trade and share conduit and fiber optics, and install empty conduit during highway construction to serve underserved areas. This initiative is complemented by UTOPIA Fiber, an open access network owned by eleven Utah cities. Also of interest is Colorado’s “Internet of roads” project led by the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), extending along highways crisscrossing the state for connected vehicle interactions and public private fiber partnership use including Project Thor involving 14 northwest Colorado mountain communities.
More than 140 Colorado communities have voted to opt out of the 15-year-old SB 152, thus enabling them to build and manage their own broadband networks, leading to a number of success stories in municipal Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH).
- Furnish Free or Affordable Mobile Devices and Broadband Services: The task Force recommends that the state, municipalities, libraries, school districts and non-profit organizations should accelerate their funding and distribution of new or refurbished tablets, laptops and mobile hotspots that may include pre- paid subscriptions to broadband services for disadvantaged and disconnected populations. A great example is Texas that has launched Operation Connectivity earlier this year, a statewide initiative to remediate their educational Digital Divide by delivering Internet connectivity and end user computing (EUC) devices to school districts, students and families. Texas has allocated $200 million in CARES Act funding matched by school districts to procure over a million personal devices and mobile hotspots to ensure that all students attending a Texas public school will have both a device and a connection to the Internet throughout the 2020-21 school year and beyond.
- Device Refurbishment and Donations Programs: The Task Force recommends providing State and other funding to expand device refurbishment and donations programs such as Az StRUT to all schools, libraries and communities in Arizona. Set- up guides, processes and procedures, provide funding, publicize these programs, request donations of surplus computers from companies, state government and universities as well as school districts and individuals for refurbishment. Device as a Service (DaaS) is a comprehensive management solution that fuses device procurement, deployment and maintenance with ongoing support services.
- Resources For Free or Discounted Technology and Services: The Task Force recommends promoting nonprofit organizations, for example TechSoup, a national nonprofit organization, that provide access to free or discounted technology and services from commercial companies such as Microsoft and Zoom, for libraries and 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations.
- Supply Chain and Lifecycle Services: The Task Force recommends exploring the use of strategic Value-Added Resellers (VARs) and Integrators that can provide Supply Chain and Lifecycle Services. These solutions enable institutions and enterprises to rapidly procure, build, image, configure and deploy hardware with the option to add device management with lifecycle support.
- Device as a Service (DaaS): The Task Force recommends exploring the use of strategic Value-Added Resellers (VARs) and Integrators that can provide Device as a Service (DaaS). This solution provides bundled endpoint hardware, software, device management and lifecycle services with financing options for an easy and predictable per-device monthly invoice.
State and Community Digital Access Planning
- Broadband and Digital Access Community Teams: The Task Force recommends continuation and expansion of State support for the creation of Broadband Action Teams (BATs) or broader Digital Access Action Teams (DAATs) in neighborhoods and communities. Teams may include schools, libraries, business, economic development officials, telehealth and other relevant local organizations that should participate in community needs assessments, broadband infrastructure planning and grant writing. Some Arizona counties have established “Broadband Action Teams” in communities such as Payson (focusing on a fiber ring for high-capacity and reliable middle mile connectivity to support economic development), Yuma (focused on agricultural economic development) and Page (focused on the tourism business) that have enabled them to access federal or state funds to connect their communities, schools and libraries.
- State Community Planning Assistance: The Task Force recommends additional funding, including additional staff for the proposed State Broadband Office and/ or the Arizona Commerce Authority, the Arizona State Library and the Arizona Department of Education, to enable them to expand their support of Arizona communities, education institutions, libraries and nonprofit organizations in community assessments and development of planning and grant identification and applications, including E-rate funding.
- Data Collection Strategy: The Task Force recommends developing a data collection strategy to provide actionable data and an overview of the current status, gap analysis and future Digital Access needs to enable more effective planning for education, telemedicine, economic development and more. Data collected may include connectivity, devices, technical support, professional development, and funding requirements. The strategy may include K-12, universities, community colleges, libraries, nonprofit organizations. Partners for this strategy might include the Arizona Department of Education, the Center for the Future of Arizona, universities and community colleges, school districts, telemedicine organizations, etc.
- Leverage E-rate Funding: The Task Force recommends that the Arizona Commerce Authority’s State Broadband Director, in cooperation with the Arizona Department of Education and State Libraries, should help maximize and leverage the use of E-rate funding provided for rural school, and libraries to enable service providers to better serve their surrounding communities including rural residences, businesses, local governments, health care facilities and public safety, a concept known as “to and through.”
- Broadband Mapping: The Task Force recommends that State government should provide up to date Arizona broadband mapping capabilities to enable broadband planning, location siting and public broadband stakeholders to track broadband coverage and fiber deployments, The mapping would be integrated with demographic and community anchor institution (CAI) details, making the data and mapping tools publicly available through the AZGEO Clearinghouse, a central repository for the sharing of GIS data and otherwise open sourcing. Arizona should also sign on to participate in the National Telecommunications & Information Administration’s (NTIA) National Broadband Availability Map (NBAM) program, a national platform allowing for the visualization and analysis
of federal, state, commercially available and open source data sets to help inform policymakers as they seek to expand broadband coverage in Arizona.
Funding and Resources Support Strategies
- Broadband Development Authority: The Task Force recommends establishing a Broadband Development Authority to provide incentives and low cost, long-term financing to encourage private sector development of resilient, middle mile and last mile telecom solutions in the state, as done in other states. The Authority should be empowered to: issue bonds and notes; make loans and provide joint venture and partnership arrangements to broadband developers and broadband operators for financing or refinancing; enter into contracts for the lease or management of the infrastructure; and enter into joint venture and partnership arrangements with persons that will acquire, construct, develop, create, maintain, own and operate the infrastructure. Owners of the network may be private, public or public-private partnerships. Funding may come from sources such as the Arizona Universal Service Fund (AUSF), tax incentives, bonding, tribal gambling, E-rate and other Federal programs including homeland security.
- Funding Research and Application Support: The Task Force recommends providing State support to research, identify, advocate and apply for federal funding and write grant proposals to help fund digital access initiatives at the state and local level.
- Government and Non-Government Grants Research: The Task Force recommends providing funding to the State Broadband Office, recommended later in this report, for a research position to provide digital access grants information on federal government, state government, and foundation grants contained in the eCivis state grants management system and other funding resources. This research position would provide regular overviews to Arizona stakeholders on relevant digital access grants of interest to a broad variety of stakeholders as well as respond to customized search requests of the eCivis system from specific stakeholders. The recommended State Broadband Office should also set up, research and maintain a digital access funding portal or web site to provide easy access to non-government funding and resources such as foundations and corporate donations.
- Arizona Broadband Stakeholder Network Funding: The Task Force recommends providing funding from State government, corporations and foundations to support the Arizona Broadband Stakeholder Network (AZBSN) to continue to facilitate collaboration, coordination, information sharing, education and communication among key public, private and nonprofit stakeholders committed to promoting the expansion of broadband deployment, digital equity and digital inclusion for all citizens in Arizona, and expanded activities as discussed in this report. These activities, recommended in numerous state reports, are important for the future development of State broadband and digital inclusion efforts beyond the COVID-19 crisis and cannot be accomplished by State government alone.
- Arizona Rural Broadband Development Grants: The Task Force recommends supporting the Governor’s 2020-2021 budget request for $10 million to recapitalize the Arizona Commerce Authority’s (ACA) Rural Broadband Development Grants (RBDG) program. The funding will expand and sustain the $3 million in state funding allocated in 2019 to enable the program to provide matching funds and to support planning and construction costs to expand broadband services. The ACA should continue to award and manage broadband grants to local partnerships or ventures with clear and achievable plans to provide/improve broadband services in unserved or underserved rural areas while also providing for community assessments or technical designs, matching funds for federal or other grants, or specific project implementation investments.
- Student Digital Inclusion Fund: The Task Force recommends creating a public and private Student Digital Inclusion Fund. In many neighborhoods and communities, especially in urban communities, infrastructure is available, and there may be one or more providers available, but the services are not affordable for many in the community. Arizona should launch a fundraising campaign to provide free or subsidized new or refurbished devices. and Internet connections for students and families in those areas where connections are available but not affordable. A good example of this is Connecting Kids Nevada, a public-private partnership seeking to connect every Nevada student in need with reliable Internet and devices.
- State Digital Access Funding: The Task Force recommends increasing State CARES Act, and other state funding, to support the needs of communities, education and libraries for broadband Internet services, end-user devices, technical support, professional development, digital content and safe operations during the COVID-19 environment.
- Arizona Universal Service Fund Supporting Broadband: The Task Force recommends expanding the role of the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) in broadband deployment including modifying the current Arizona Universal Service Fund (AUSF), or creating a new fund, to support deployment of broadband infrastructure in rural areas. The AUSF currently only supports subsidies for telephone lines to low income residents in high-cost rural areas. In 2018, through a limited rule making, the ACC provided $8 million AUSF funds to match federal E-rate funding to connect schools and libraries in Arizona.
The $8 million AUSF funds, plus $3 million from the Governor’s Office provided the match for some $130 million in E-rate infrastructure funding. This program was successful; however, the rule making expired. ACC Commissioner Lea Márquez Peterson is participating in a National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) Broadband Expansion Task Force that is looking at the role and strategies for regulatory organizations such as the ACC to support broadband deployment to underserved areas.
- Major Donations Digital Access Campaign: The Task Force recommends launching a major foundations and corporate fundraising and donations campaign to complement other fundraising activities to access Arizona and national foundations that support digital access needs of communities, education, library and telehealth organizations.
- Public Awareness Campaign: The Task Force recommends developing an ongoing Public Awareness Campaign to inform the public about funding and resource opportunities including press releases, newsletters, webinars and an optimized web portal.
- Community Reinvestment Act Funding: The Task Force recommends developing a statewide strategy to support communities and nonprofit 501(c)(3) organizations in applying for Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) funding. The Federal 1977 Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) requires all banking institutions that receive Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation Insurance (FDIC) to provide equitable access for those living in “low and moderate income” (LMI) communities to banking services as well as investments for community development (i.e., enhancing economic opportunity) in LMI communities. Banks must meet their CRA obligations through a mix of volunteerism, grantmaking and investments.
In 2016 the Federal Reserve, in collaboration with the National Collaborative for Digital Equity (NCDE), issued guidance encouraging the nation’s banks to invest CRA resources in digital equity. NCDE has launched a “One Percent for Digital Equity” campaign, advocating that banks and their community partners nationwide strive to reach a target of one percent of CRA funding to close the digital divide, as this would unleash fully $1 billion annually. The challenge now is to educate banks about how to work with local communities, education and other organizations to provide digital equity funding. The Task Force has held preliminary discussions with the CRA policy-point person for Arizona to explore CRA funding opportunities in Arizona and how communities or organizations can apply for support.
State Broadband and Digital Inclusion Leadership, Policy and Regulation
- State Broadband Office: Consistent with the recommendation included in the current Arizona Statewide Broadband Strategic Plan, the Task Force recommends establishing a State-level Broadband Office under the Arizona Commerce Authority to coordinate statewide broadband governance, buildout, funding and delivery. The State Broadband Office should utilize a Broadband Advisory Committee to support the work of the broadband office. The State Broadband Office will expand on the role of the existing State Broadband Director at the ACA, to enable State coordination, support for community assessments, grant application development, planning assistance, coordination with broadband providers and reducing or removing barriers to broadband deployment.
- Accelerate broadband deployment in rural communities: The Task Force recommends that the State should take significant action to accelerate broadband deployment in rural communities. These actions may include direct investment of state funds, reduction of regulatory hurdles, and promotion of public-private partnerships to deliver digital connectivity to unserved and underserved areas.
- Remove Barriers and Provide Incentives for Private Sector Investment: The Task Force recommends that the State and local communities develop public policies and market-driven strategies that will remove barriers, encourage competition, private sector investment in, and rapid deployment of, advanced telecommunications services and affordable broadband Internet access throughout the State. Federal, tribal, state and local Rights-of-Way issues such as multiple jurisdictions permitting, delayed application approvals and unequal and prohibitive fees have been significant barriers and disincentives for private broadband investment and deployment. The State should provide leadership in coordinating all levels of government in developing policies to enable one-stop- shopping, consistent fees and expedited right-of-way permitting processes for last mile and middle mile services.
- Statewide Broadband Funding Strategy: The Task Force recommends that the state develop a statewide strategy and oversight mechanisms, including consideration of a Broadband Development Authority, to coordinate and optimize Arizona communities, education institutions, nonprofit organizations and broadband providers use of Digital Equity/Digital Divide funding resources such as providing new sources of federal monies that are now becoming available due to COVID-19. The state should ensure a level playing field for incumbent and new entrant broadband providers.
- Telemedicine and Telehealth Infrastructure and Initiatives: With social distancing and selective quarantining the new norm, telemedicine is becoming even more necessary and critical for Arizona’s health care facilities, providers and patients during and in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Task Force recommends that Telehealth and its integration into delivery of health care through electronic means should continue to be enabled and broadly adopted throughout Arizona building on the strong, long-term success of the University of Arizona’s Arizona Telemedicine Program (ATP), designated by the Arizona Legislature to oversee and coordinate statewide telemedicine clinical, education, research and telecommunications programs. We continue to advocate for the State to continue progressing with evolving, deploying and enforcing progressive telemedicine laws at state and local levels and to continue to invest in telemedicine programs and infrastructure. We recommend that Arizona actively participate in multi-state licensure compacts for physicians and nurses, as well as continue to facilitate and fund the expansion of statewide telehealth infrastructure and its associated ecosystem. Telemedicine issues.
- Electric Cooperatives: The Task Force recommends that the State should consider additional regulatory reform and incentives to drive rural broadband deployment by electric cooperatives. The Arizona Legislature recently passed legislation (SB1460) to enable electric cooperatives to deploy deep fiber and serve residential and enterprise broadband customers. Mohave Electric Cooperative (MEC) with support from the ACA’s Broadband Program will be the first cooperative in Arizona to construct a fiber-to-the-premise network for its customers and is currently accepting pre-registrations. More Arizona electric cooperatives should follow MEC’s lead, leveraging their ROW and existing fiber to offer rural broadband services. The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) covers projects and policy from their Broadband Issues page.
Technical Support & Professional Development for Education and Community
- Professional Development: The Task Force recommends providing coordination of professional development initiatives and increased funding for Professional Development for educators. The transition from in person to online and hybrid learning has presented huge challenges for educators, many who have had little or no experience in virtual or hybrid teaching. While schools have been working hard in making this transition, we need to support schools in providing expanded professional development and training opportunities for educators in K-12, Community Colleges and Universities, on remote and hybrid instruction. While there are a number of organizations currently, or planning to provide professional development such as the Arizona Technology In Education Association (AzTEA), the recently announced ASU Prep Digital’s Arizona Virtual Teacher Institute and the United States Distance Learning Association, there is no portal or database of existing organizations, little coordination, and no strategic or unified professional development strategy. We need to identify, coordinate and develop collaborative locally relevant strategies for all organizations including school districts, libraries, universities, community colleges and nonprofits that currently provide or plan to provide professional development and training for educators on remote and hybrid instruction.
- Technical Support: The Task Force recommends that while there are a number of organizations such as the Arizona Technology In Education Association, the State Library’s AZ LibTAP program, school districts, community colleges, universities, the Gen YES program (discussed below), Insight Help Desk, Arizona Department of Education and other nonprofit organizations, currently, or planning to provide technical support, there is no portal or database of existing organizations, little coordination and no strategic or unified technical support strategy. We need to identify, coordinate and develop locally relevant collaborative technical support strategies for all school districts, libraries, universities, community colleges and nonprofit organizations that are, or plan to provide, local and statewide tech support to schools, libraries and individuals in the State, including students, parents, seniors, library patrons and members of the community.
- Cybersecurity and Privacy Technical Assistance: The Task Force recommends that cyber security and privacy information awareness, training and technical assistance be available to all citizens, organizations and institutions in the State. As if COVID-19 is not bad enough, cyber security criminals have been hard at work with numerous threats: hacking business, government and personal networks and even mobile devices. The emergence of COVID-19 has caused dramatic increases in video conference intrusions, scams, phishing, viruses, ransomware and more.
And of course, we are concerned about what our children are accessing on the web. There are many challenges and real cybersecurity threats to individuals, organizations and institutions. In addition to technical support and training for connectivity and devices, cyber security technical support and training needs to be readily available. We need to ensure that everyone has access to advice and information, strategies and technical support for cyber threat detection, protection, response and recovery for devices, operating systems, applications and connectivity. Assistance should be available to support installation of antivirus and antimalware software as well as browser security for example, patching operating systems and applications, help configuring Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), and much more. In Arizona, the universities, community colleges and even K-12 schools have cyber security resources and programs. Of particular note is on site and online Arizona Cyber Warfare Ranges open to the public. We also look to other groups such as the Governor’s Arizona Cybersecurity Team, Arizona Cyber Threat Response Alliance (ACTRA), Arizona InfraGard and AZ Cyber Talent for leadership as well as to specifications and best practices from national and international resources such as the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST) Cybersecurity Framework. Issues surrounding the use of personal data and individual privacy are significant, vary by jurisdiction and carve out special cases and rules for students, minors, personal medical information and other circumstances, requiring due consideration, planning and good governance.
- Support Adopting New Broadband Technologies: The Task Force recommends providing information and technical support to assist schools and communities in exploring and adopting new and innovative Internet access solutions and technologies available today that individually, or in combination, can provide unique and affordable solutions from wireline, satellite combined with mesh networks, cellular and 5G, microwave, Wi-Fi on school buses, open school and libraries networks and open provider Wi-Fi networks.
- Strategies to Provision Devices: The Task Force recommends providing information and technical support to assist schools and communities in exploring and adopting new and innovative strategies for provisioning devices.
- Students Providing Tech Support: The Task Force recommends developing an initiative to use K-12, university and community college students to provide tech support. Explore the use of national train-the-trainer nonprofit organizations that train students and provide them opportunities to be information technology leaders in their schools and communities. For example, Youth and Educators Succeeding (formerly known as Generation YES) students provide IT professional development and technical support for the teachers and other students in their schools, which is particularly critical during the COVID-19 crisis where teachers are stretched to perform online instruction. This program could be scaled up for multiple school districts across the State. A related resource is the SciTech Institute’s STEM program of student Chief Science Officers (CSOs) in schools who could be involved with establishing and sustaining Gen YES-style tech support programs in schools statewide.
- Sun Corridor Network Tech Support: The Task Force recommends exploring how technical support could be provided through the Sun Corridor Network.
- Service Desk Support Services: The Task Force recommends exploring the use of commercial organizations that have experience in providing service desk support services for school districts and other users. Insight is an example of such an organization and has been providing service desk support services for school districts nationally for 20 years. Their service desk support model provides 24/7/365 multi-language technical support for teachers, students and parents. Insight Service Desk Support can be purchased by an individual school district or could be contracted on a large-scale statewide level at a value-added volume-based discounted model.
Public Access to Digital Resources
- Digital Access Resource Portal: The Task Force recommends developing and promote a simple, easy to navigate, public-facing Digital Access Resources Portal (e.g., Connect Arizona) to provide easy access to digital equity resources such as locating free or low cost Wi-Fi hotspots, professional development and tech support organizations, digital resources and PPE resources.
- Access to Digital Inclusion Resources: The Task Force recommends coordinating and providing access to Arizona digital access organizations and resources that provide technical assistance, professional development, or free or affordable devices or Internet.
Educational Digital Content and Resource Sharing
- Digital Content and Virtual Labs: Digital content of various kinds such as digital curriculum, instructional videos and informational resources offer opportunities to substantially enhance and improve student education. For example, in addition to providing general instruction online, K-12 and higher-education is facing challenges of reducing costs and providing instruction for science courses for students with limited access to physical labs. The Task Force recommends that Virtual lab simulations should be considered to offer remote science instruction effectively with a quick transition at lower cost than physical labs. Virtual Labs technologies have been proven to be highly effective in providing online STEM education.
We recommend creating a statewide Virtual Labs Consortium to provide virtual laboratories for science courses. The Consortium could purchase virtual simulations that may enable us to obtain volume discounts for all Arizona educational institutions. For example, ATIC and GAZEL have been exploring a Consortium with Labster, a Danish company that provides virtual laboratory simulations for a variety of science courses in biology, chemistry and physics. Over 500 community colleges and universities in the U.S. currently use Labster virtual labs, including ASU which has a major program with Labster. Labster simulations are also used in high school advanced placement courses.
Safe Operations of Schools, Libraries and Public Spaces
- The Arizona Department of Education (ADE) has published a guidelines document on safe re-opening of schools during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Arizona State Library has a COVID Resources page with best practices for safe functioning of libraries during the pandemic.
- The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has tips on home network optimization, getting broadband, wireless security, cell phone hygiene and more at fcc.gov/back-to-school.
The Task Force has considered some additional issues related to this, particularly the use of publicly accessed (shared) computers at schools and libraries. Discussions were held with the Arizona Bioindustry Association (AZBio), an industry association of biotech companies and organizations, on safe reopening practices. Discussions covered the use of public access computers including sanitation, antimicrobial keyboards and gesture (haptic) interfaces. Mohave Educational Services Cooperative has provided master contracts for purchase of PPE. The Task Force recommends consideration of cost-effective options to minimize coronavirus transmission.
- Detection and Prevention Technology Solutions; The Task Force recommends exploring use of commercial organizations such as Insight that are currently providing COVID-19 detection and prevention technology solutions to clients globally, which includes UV light cleaning systems, thermal cameras and temperature measurement devices, IoT hand sanitizers, social distance smart cones, personal virus testing centers and robust tracking and reporting services.