Missouri Pursues Sustainable Digital Opportunity Initiatives
Friday, November 3, 2023
Missouri Pursues Sustainable Digital Opportunity Initiatives
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Round-Up for the Week of Oct 30-Nov 3, 2023
All 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico are currently working on digital equity plans. As they release draft plans seeking public feedback, the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society is sharing summaries focused on how states define their digital divides and their vision for reaching digital equity.
The Missouri Office of Broadband Development, housed in the Department of Economic Development, released the state's draft Digital Opportunity Plan for public comment. The plan serves as a comprehensive guide to the actions that Missouri intends to pursue in order to achieve digital equity in the state. Through this plan and statewide efforts, the Missouri Office of Broadband Development is working to build a more equal and prosperous home for all Missourians regardless of demography and geography. Importantly, the state is being intentional about its efforts to make sure its planned digital opportunity initiatives are sustainable long after funding from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) runs out.
Missouri's Vision of Digital Equity
As an office within the Missouri Department of Economic Development (DED), the Office of Broadband Development (OBD) is primarily concerned with enabling citizens to utilize the full capacity of the internet in order to enhance economic outcomes. As such, OBD strives every day to realize the vision of a Missouri where every citizen, regardless of their financial, geographic or demographic background, has access to the complete set of digital skills, technology, and resources necessary to realize their full potential within the digital economy.
Missouri 2023 Internet Survey
Nearly 80 percent of Missourians fall into one of the IIJA's covered populations––referred to as focus populations by the Missouri OBD––and over 33 percent of Missourians lack a computer or tablet. OBD reports that 18 percent of Missourians are completely disconnected from the internet. The 2023 Missouri Internet Survey provides insight into the infrastructure and digital needs of Missourians and serves as a benchmark for measuring progress as broadband investments are implemented to benefit every corner of the state.
OBD defines low-income households (covered households under the IIJA) as respondents with an annual household income of less than $35,000 for this report. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are over 687,000 Missouri households (28% of all households) with income less than $35,000 per year. Low-income households were less likely to use a personal computer at home (78%) compared to the survey average (88%). Conversely, they had a higher tendency to rely solely on smartphones (12%) as opposed to all respondents (6%). Low-income households without internet services were typically willing to pay $28 a month, compared to a $48 survey average. Respondents in this population were typically willing to pay $300 to buy/replace a computer, compared to a $460 average.
Low-income households were much less likely to work from home at least one day a week (26%) or to use thee internet for online training (34%), compared to the survey average (48% and 44%, respectively). Two out of three respondents used the internet to access government or health services, and slightly less than half used it for educational needs (48%). The use of these three services was between five to seven percentage points lower than the averages for all respondents.
On average, low-income households were 10 percentage points more likely to have an interest in training or assistance than other survey respondents. Respondents were more likely to go to local government—including libraries and schools for assistance (35%) than other respondents (27%). Personal information security (81%), computer viruses (69%), and website tracking (66%) were the top three concerns for this population. Respondents were four to five percentage points more concerned than the average respondent with misleading information or surveillance.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, over 377,000 veterans live in Missouri and account for 8 percent of the state’s population. Veteran survey respondents were generally higher income and older, with 43 percent aged 65 or older compared to the overall Missouri population (17%). Veteran Households were more likely to use a personal computer at home (93%) compared to the survey average (88%) and less likely to rely solely on smartphones (4%) than the survey average (6%).
Three out of four respondents used the internet to access government or health services (74%), slightly above the survey averages, and half used it for educational needs (50%). Personal information security (84%), computer viruses (71%), and website tracking (67%) were the top three concerns for this population. Apart from negative influences, respondents were approximately four percentage points more concerned than the average respondent with internet usage.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are over 1,033,000 Missouri residents (16.8% of the population) who are aged 65 or older, a slightly higher proportion than the U.S. average (16%). Aging residents were slightly more likely to use a personal computer at home (90%) compared to the survey average (88%) and less likely to rely solely on smartphones (4%) than the survey average (6%).
Most respondents in this population used the internet to access government or health services (70% and 73%, respectively). Nearly half of the aging resident respondents were interested in training or assistance with setting up or using new devices (46%), the highest of any focus population and well above the survey average (28%). Personal information security (91%), computer viruses (79%), and website tracking (72%) were the top three concerns for this population. Apart from negative influences, respondents were approximately eight percentage points more concerned than the average respondent with internet usage.
Individuals with Disabilities
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are nearly 867,000 disabled Missourians (14.4% of the population). Disabled household (Missouro OBD's reference term for this population) respondents were typically lower income; compared to all Missouri households classified as low income (28%), more than one-third (37%) of disabled households had an income below $35,000. Most disabled households used a personal computer at home (87%), slightly less than the survey average (88%). Like the survey average, a majority reported paying for home internet service (87%) and only a small portion chose not to purchase available internet services (4%).
Four out of five respondents used the internet to access health services (80%), well above the survey average (72%). This population was also more likely to access government services (76%) than the average respondent (72%). On average, disabled households were 5 percentage points more likely to have an interest in training or assistance than other survey respondents.
Nearly four out of ten respondents had an interest in finding information and resources they trust (39%), significantly higher than the survey average (33%). Nearly one out of three were interested in accessing health care resources (31%), six percentage points higher than the survey average (25%). Personal information security (84%), computer viruses (72%), and website tracking (69%) were the top three internet concerns for this population. On average, respondents in this population were six percentage points more concerned than the average respondent with internet usage.
Missouri OBD states that it is difficult to estimate population size for formerly incarcerated households, as it includes people who are no longer supervised by corrections officers, but it is conservatively more than 60,000 individuals. Respondents were typically lower income; compared to all Missouri households classified as low income (28%), nearly half (48%) of this population had an income below $35,000. Given the lower income levels of this population, it is likely that willingness to pay for internet services and a computer are comparable to covered households. Respondents without internet services were typically willing to pay $28 a month, compared to a $48 survey average. Low-income households were typically willing to pay $300 to buy/replace a computer, compared to a $460 average.
Formerly incarcerated households were more likely to search/apply for jobs online (56%) than the survey average (32%). Three out of ten respondents used home internet to run their business (30%), more than average survey respondents (22%). Three out of four respondents used the internet to access government or health services. Formerly incarcerated households were more likely to use it for educational needs (62%) compared to the survey average (54%).
Formerly incarcerated households were 20 percentage points more interested in gaining job skills online (41%) than average survey respondents (21%). These respondents had more interest in accessing education resources (41%) and using devices/internet to start or manage a business (32%) compared to the survey average (23% and 19%, respectively). Personal information security (78%) was the top concern for this population. Respondents were more concerned with misleading information (65%) than the average respondent (56%).
Individuals with a Language Barrier
Language Barrier households are defined by OBD as households with a person that had limited English ability. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are over 122,000 people, aged 5 or older, in Missouri that do not speak English “very well.” Spanish-speaking individuals represent 43 percent of that population. Language barrier household respondents were slightly more likely to be lower income; 30 percent of these households had an income below $35,000 compared to all Missouri households classified as low income (28%). Language barrier households were typically willing to pay $397 to buy/replace a computer, compared to a $460 average.
Language barrier households were nine to ten percentage points more likely to teleconference (65%), do online training (53%), search/apply for jobs online (42%), and run their business (33%) than average survey respondents. Language barrier households were twenty-two percentage points more likely to use it for educational needs (76%), compared to the survey average (54%).
Language barrier households were eighteen percentage points or more interested in accessing education resources (47%), gaining job skills online (39%), and using devices/internet to start or manage a business (37%) than the average survey respondent (23%, 21%, and 19%, respectively). One out of three respondents in this focus population was interested in accessing healthcare resources (34%) compared to the survey average (25%). Respondents were more likely to go to local government – incl. libraries and schools for assistance (35%) than other respondents (27%). Personal information security (84%) was the top concern for this population. Respondents were more concerned with negative influences (46%) than the average respondent (30%).
Individuals who are Members of a Racial or Ethnic Minority Group
The Missouri OBD defines this covered population by respondents who identified as Non-White or of Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish origin. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are over 1.2 million non-white Missourians (20% of the population) and nearly 272,000 persons of Hispanic or related origin. Non-white household respondents were more likely to be lower income; 32 percent of these households had an income below $35,000 compared to all Missouri households classified as low income (28%).
More than half of the non-white households used the internet to work from home at least 1day a week (55%) and for online training (51%), compared to the survey average
(48% and 44%, respectively). Respondents in this focus population were also more likely to search/apply for jobs online (44%) than the survey average (32%). Nearly three out of four respondents used the internet to access government or health services (74% and 73%, respectively). Respondents were nine percentage points more likely to use it for educational needs (63%) compared to the survey average (54%).
On average, non-white households were 9 percentage points more likely to have an interest in training or assistance than other survey respondents. Non-white households had significantly more interest in gaining job skills online (36%) than other respondents (21%). Respondents in this focus population were much more likely to go to local government – incl. libraries and schools for assistance (46%) than the survey average (27%). Personal information security (83%), computer viruses (71%), and website tracking (68%) were the top three concerns for this population. Respondents were nine percentage points more concerned with surveillance (53%) than the average respondent (44%).
Individuals who Primarily Reside in a Rural Area
Missouri's OBD defines this population by households located in Missouri’s nonmetropolitan (nonmetro) counties. In addition, low-access households located in zip codes with low broadband availability were also considered rural along with poorly served; these zip codes had less than half of internet-served locations with 25/3 Mbps or greater service. Nonmetro survey respondents were generally older, with 27 percent aged 65 or older compared to the overall population (17%).
Rural nonmetro households were slightly less likely to work from home at least 1 day a week (46%) compared to the survey average (48%). Conversely, respondents in this population were more likely to use the internet for running their business (26%) compared to the survey average (22%). Most respondents used the internet to access health and government services (67% and 64%, respectively), but at levels five to eight percent points lower than the survey averages (72%).
Rural nonmetro household responses were generally comparable with the survey average, with finding information and resources they trust a the top interest (30%), a few percentage points below the average respondent (33%). Gaining job skills online was of least interest (16%) compared to a survey average (21%), likely due in part to the older age profile of this population group. Online resources were where most respondents in this population group would go for internet/device help (55%), followed by their internet service provider (41%). Respondents were eight percentage points less likely to go to local government – incl. libraries and schools for assistance (19%) compared to the survey average (27%). Personal information security (78%), computer viruses (66%), and website tracking (64%) were the top three concerns for this focus population.
Goal: Reduce Barriers to Universal Internet Access
Objective: Connect all unserved households by employing BEAD funds
- Conduct one or more rounds of grant applications that will award funding to the ISPs whose projects will ensure that all unserved locations in Missouri receive service
- Develop a map showing broadband availability across Missouri
- Partner with ISPs to locate gaps in coverage
Objective: Achieve a 67 percent Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) participation rate
- Promote ACP via State of Missouri official channels of communications, both new and existing
- Encourage partners to promote ACP
- Coordinate ACP promotional work amongst externally funded partners (e.g., ACP Outreach Grant Awardees)
- Launch OBD branded GetACP website with Education Superhighway
Objective: Increase internet affordability
- Promote ACP, Lifeline, and other national programs/organizations that offer internet assistance
- Develop a framework for determining broadband availability
- Require BEAD-funded entities to comply with the affordability framework
- Encourage competition among ISPs
Goal: Increase the technological capacity of Missourians
Objective: Increase the supply of affordable fully internet-capable devices in Missouri
- Identify potential areas of cooperation between state agencies/departments and local refurbishers to locate new sources of fully Internet-capable devices
- Fund programming that distributes free and/or subsidized devices
- Develop programming that matches credential program graduates with devices
- Incentivize Missouri-based groups, including the private sector, to donate devices
- Promote and support new and existing low and no-cost refurbishers
Goal: Improve Missourians' digital skills and capacity to function online
Objective: Increase opportunities to engage in the digital economy
- Promote tech and digital fellowships/technical training
- Support the expansion of work requiring digital skills
- Encourage local educational and workforce agencies to prioritize digital skills
- Expand resources available at career centers
- Provide grants to groups that focus on upskilling traditional non-Internet or technology-related programs
- Assist academic institutions in developing 1:1 student-to-technology ratio in classrooms
- Fund programming that deploys full “wrap-around” services to ensure that the social determinants of poverty are also being addressed
- Increase access to online education alternatives to traditional education programs
Objective: Improve digital skills
- Recruit, train, and deploy digital navigators
- Fund the creation of courses and curricula focused on developing digital skills
- Develop free online repositories of coursework on crucial skills
- Support locally-led “train the trainer” programs
- Increase access to digital skills training in primary and secondary schools
- Develop means to track digital skills improvement
Objective: Enhance Missourians' sense of security and privacy online
- Deploy cybersecurity-focused digital navigators into communities with need
- Support nationwide initiatives like the AARP Fraud Watch Network
Goal: Improve Missouri Covered Populations' health outcomes
Objective: Increase the capacity of hospitals and other medical facilities to handle health outcomes
- Connect underfunded hospitals with resources to develop increased telehealth capacity
- Through Digital Equity Act capacity funds, fund programming that provides wrap-around services for digitally disconnected communities
- Through BEAD funding, fund broadband deployments that connect rural and low-income communities with telehealth-capable medical facilities
Goal: Increase accessibility of government services
Objective: Ensure ease of access of online resources for community members
- Utilize the resources provided by the internet to ensure that residents can access informational materials in their first language
- Ensure online-only government sites are functional across PCs, tablets, and cellular telephones
- Reduce the data consumption rates of government sites for ease of access to limited data households
- Communicate with the public clearly about the status of public services via multiple channels including non-electronic channels
In order to ensure OBD is making real progress towards attaining digital equity and supporting Missouri in advancing their own prosperity OBD has identified the following measurable objectives. The objectives are population-specific and take into consideration the base levels from which each population will begin.
Affordability, Accessibility, and Digital Skills
- Increase ACP-eligible households enrolled in the ACP—through the DEA Capacity funding period of performance—by:
- Covered Households: 5 percent annually
- Aging individuals: 3 percent annually
- Veterans: 7 percent annually
- Individuals with a language barrier: 15 percent annually
- Individuals who are ethnic/racial minorities: 12 percent annually
- Individuals with disabilities: 13 percent annually
- Individuals who primarily reside in a rural area: 7 percent annually
- Incarcerated individuals, other than individuals who are incarcerated in a Federal correctional facility: 65 percent
- Determine the metric of middle-class affordability
- Structure BEAD program to ensure middle-class affordability on networks built with BEAD funds
- Reduce by 1/3 the number of households in Missouri reporting cost as a major barrier to access
- Connect all unserved locations in Missouri using BEAD funds by 2028
- Connect the highest possible number of underserved locations by 2028
- Reduce response time to comments left on OBD web pages to within 1-2 business days
- Foster a competitive business environment in the telecommunications environment to lower costs for all consumers
- Attain language parity in promotional materials between English and the second and third most commonly spoken languages in Missouri
- Consider language barriers or targeted grants to individuals who are ethnic/racial minorities
- Ensure that all OBD funding opportunities are accessible to individuals with a disability.
- Make the Digital Opportunity Plan available and accessible to hearing and visually impaired Missourians
- Attend and promote digital inclusion resources at the annual Department of Corrections Re-Entry Conference
- Fund 3 programs annually that upskill eligible prisoners to prepare them for release
- Fund at least one program annually that matches formerly incarcerated persons with device/skills training upon release
- Develop a strategy with DOC to make more resources available online on government sites
- Facilitate the donation of 500+ devices annually to trusted partners who will ensure their distribution to communities in need
- Incentivize via BEAD and other OBD programs the donation of excess devices
- Pursue at the legislative and policy level the passing of legislation that will encourage the donation of devices to communities in need
- Encourage the growth of a robust recycling and refurbishing ecosystem to promote universal device availability
- Provide annual funding to expand the capacity of libraries and other institutions that lend devices
- Support the establishment of 1:1 student-to-device ratios in schools
Online Privacy & Cybersecurity
- Conduct 500 online privacy & cybersecurity focused training sessions annually
- Collaborate with AARP to integrate cybersecurity into Livable Communities Initiatives
- Require all OBD-supported digital skills programming to include sections on online privacy and cybersecurity
- Conduct 4 or more online privacy and cybersecurity skills training events per county (may be virtual) annually
- Support executive agencies in identifying and securing any vulnerabilities on government sites that may threaten Missourians who visit
- Incentivize, via BEAD and other legislation, ISPs to offer basic cybersecurity training to their new and existing customers
Ensuring Program Sustainability
The Office of Broadband Development will make every effort to eliminate the barriers to equitable digital opportunities within the designated timeframe. Given the scale of the mission at hand, OBD recognizes that it may not be possible to completely bridge the digital divide within the time allotted. Therefore OBD has committed to ensuring the sustainability of OBD-supported programming beyond the existence of IIJA. OBD has set forth the following practices to support sustainability within Missouri’s digital inclusion ecosystem:
Affordability: OBD is currently exploring options to guarantee middle-class and low-income broadband affordability. In order to receive funding from OBD, via BEAD or any future program, ISPs must offer a plan that complies with said standards of affordability. OBD will continue to perform outreach, support registration, and other promotional efforts on behalf of the ACP.
Devices: OBD is currently exploring various ways to ensure a stable supply of functional low-cost devices (PCs, tablets, monitors, hotspots, etc.) for disconnected Missourians. OBD will also seek to incentivize the distribution of surplus devices by ISPs and other MO-based organizations via the OBD-managed BEAD and DEA-related funding program.
Digital Skills/Internet Privacy & Security: OBD expects to partner with a number of organizations over the lifetime of DEA. When existing free digital skills curricula are
available, they will be used. OBD will also fund the creation of content that will provide Missourians instruction in the skills necessary to be safe and productive within the digital economy. Several examples of sites with this type of content currently exist (e.g., digitalequity.missouri.org). While OBD cannot enforce the continued delivery of instruction post-DEA funding, OBD will prioritize that any content created with funding provided by Missouri’s share of DEA funding be made publicly available free of charge. This will ensure that any Missourian with the desire to pursue digital skill and knowledge development has the option to do so.
These steps should be considered representative of the steps to ensure sustainability developed thus far, however, the steps outlined should not be considered exhaustive. OBD will continue to engage with national, state and local partners, as well as continued intellectual exchanges with other states’ broadband offices to ascertain and implement novel techniques that ensure continued digital inclusion services beyond the existence of DEA funding.
Send Your Feedback to Missouri
Public comments on Missouri's draft Digital Opportunity Plan can be submitted using the OBD public comment survey until November 26, 2023. More information about Missouri's digital equity efforts can be found on the DED/OBD website.
- Analyzing the Impact of Potential Changes to the ACP Eligibility Criteria (USC)
- FCC authorizes over $18 billion in Enhanced A-CAM support to expand rural broadband (FCC)
- The Biden-Harris Administration is taking actions to improve the health of rural communities (HHS)
- Don’t be fooled: Net neutrality is about more than just blocking and throttling (Tom Wheeler)
- A Rural Calling: Peggy Schaffer (Daily Yonder)
Weekend Reads (resist tl;dr)
- BEAD Letter of Credit Waiver (NTIA)
- FCC Launches Inquiry to Increase Minimum Broadband Speed Benchmark, Set Gigabit Future Goal (FCC)
- President Biden Issues Executive Order on Safe, Secure, and Trustworthy Artificial Intelligence (White House)
- Digital Equity and Justice in Maryland: Challenges and Opportunities (Dr. Colin Rhinesmith)
- Finding You: The Network Effect of Telecommunications Vulnerabilities for Location Disclosure (University of Toronto)
ICYMI from Benton
- Gain and Sustain: The Affordable Connectivity Program is Getting More People Online
- Will BEAD Networks Offer Affordable Service?
- NTIA's Model Low-Cost Broadband Service Option
- Broadband Workforce Survey Shows Challenges Providers Expect During BEAD Rollout
- Digital Equity and Justice in Maryland: Challenges and Opportunities
- A Digital Equity Plan to Connect All Kansans
Nov 5-7––Telecom Executive Policy Summit (NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association)
Nov 14––The Connect20 Summit (Network:On)
Nov 14––Regulating digital industries (Brookings)
Nov 15––U.S. Broadband Summit (Fierce)
Nov 15––Code to Conduct in AI: Open Source, Privacy, and More (Mozilla)
Nov 17––Maternal Health Roundtable (FCC)
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