Articles, Releases & More

NEWS RELEASE: Create The Future In Rural Nebraska—Apply for RFI Student Serviceship

September 20, 2017
The Rural Futures Institute (RFI) at the University of Nebraska is seeking highly-motivated student leaders to help create the future of Nebraska’s rural communities through 2018 RFI Student Serviceship. Continue reading
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Young Nebraskans Week

September 14, 2017
By 2018, employers will see as many as five generations working side by side. More than 60 million baby boomers will exit the workforce, and by 2025, only 40 million new workers will enter to replace them. Advancements in technology will help elevate some labor shortages but not in all sectors. Estimates suggest millennials could make up as much as 75% of the U.S. workforce by 2025. Continue reading
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Leadership Skills: Being a Doer to Become a Leader

September 5, 2017
I’ve never considered myself a “leader.” My philosophy has always been to do and steer. Meeting gets out of hand; get it back on point. People are complaining about a constant problem; address said problem. Continue reading
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2017 Research & Engagement | Request for Proposals

2017 Research & Engagement

Thank you for your interest in the 2017 Rural Futures Institute Research & Engagement Awards Program. As it is after 4:00 pm CST on Wednesday, March 15, we are no longer accepting proposal submissions.

  • Up to four awards will be made with $75,000 maximum per award.
  • The project time period will not exceed 24 months.

If you have questions about the submission process, please contact Kim Peterson at kpeterson@nebraska.edu or call 402-472-9287.

The University of Nebraska is committed to establishing a transformative Rural Futures Institute (RFI). RFI's vision, mission and core values are the fundamental underpinnings for this request for proposals.

Vision

RFI will be a locally, nationally and internationally recognized leader focused on increasing community capacity as well as the hope and confidence of rural people to address their challenges and opportunities, resulting in resilient and sustainable futures.

Mission

Through a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship, the RFI mobilizes the diverse resources of the University of Nebraska and its partners to support rural communities and regions in building upon their unique strengths and assets to achieve their desired futures.

Core Values

The work commissioned and supported by RFI must be guided by the Institute’s core values:
  • Bold
  • Transdisciplinary
  • Innovative
  • Agile
  • Collaborative
  • Reflective
The purpose of RFI Competitive Awards is to foster the development of research and engagement work that addresses critical challenges and opportunities facing rural areas. These awards are to function as “seed grants” that are designed to lay the foundation for grant requests to funding sources external to the University of Nebraska or sustainable funding through other mechanisms such as fees and contracts. Although all of the core values underpin the RFI Competitive Awards program, successful proposals must explicitly address transdisciplinary and collaborative considerations both internal and external to the University. Transdisciplinary research uses a strategy that crosses many disciplinary boundaries to create a holistic approach. Additionally, if RFI is to be successful, it must create an environment in which deep and meaningful collaborative partnerships are the norm: across campuses; across departments and disciplines; and with external stakeholders such as other non-University campuses, communities, state and local government, trade associations, civic groups and the philanthropic community. Proposals that demonstrate meaningful multi-campus and appropriate disciplinary collaborations will score more favorably. These collaborative partnerships are the essence of engaged research or “engagement.” Engaged research establishes reciprocal relationships of mutual respect and understanding. The mindset and attitude must be one of doing research “with the community,” rather than doing research “for the community” or “to the community.” Finally, proposals are expected to be innovative and bold in their proposed action, partnerships and outcomes. It is important to note that the issues facing rural areas include economic considerations but not to the exclusion of other equally important considerations. Basic human services such as health care and education present both challenges and opportunities to rural people and places. Even broader considerations are the natural environment and the civic, cultural, design and artistic aspect of human and community development that cannot easily be counted and measured, nor justified only in terms of economic returns. RFI Competitive Awards encourages proposals in which progress and viability are defined by the triple bottom line of economic, social and environmental considerations.
  • University faculty and staff as well as Nebraska community members and non-NU higher education faculty/staff are welcome to apply; however, either the Principal Investigator (PI) or a co-Principal Investigator (co-PI) must be affiliated with NU and take responsibility for administering the award funds.
  • Collaboration with partners external to the University of Nebraska is strongly encouraged.
  • An individual may serve as the PI for only one proposal but may serve as a (co-PI) on one or more proposals.
Proposals will be reviewed by a panel that will include both academic and non-academic representation. This panel will prioritize applications for funding based upon the criteria provided in Sections V and IX of this RFP. Final approval of proposals to be funded will be made by the Executive Director of the Rural Futures Institute.
  1. Potential to result in contributions to and measurable outcomes consistent with RFI's vision and mission.
  2. Compatibility with RFI's core values, especially transdisciplinary, collaborative, innovative and bold considerations.
  3. Potential to increase competitiveness for future external funding that is consistent with the vision and mission of RFI.
  4. Matching funds are not required but may increase the likelihood a proposal will be selected for funding.
Proposals ultimately funded will have certain expectations of the PI and the key personnel including the following:
  • Recipients are expected to participate in a working group composed of the RFI Research & Engagement award recipients. It is anticipated this group will meet at least once per academic year to share ‘best practices’ and lessons learned around innovative and creative processes and strategies unique to the research and engagement work undertaken.
  • Recipients are expected to share their insights and findings at a variety of appropriate venues including conferences, such as the Rural Futures Conference, and in refereed publications. In addition, the PI is expected to work with both the RFI Director of Competitive Awards and the RFI Director of Communications on external communications opportunities (white papers, interviews, recorded presentation, lecture, webinar, etc.) to share project results/findings with the broader RFI audience.
  • Recipients are expected to actively pursue external funding sources and submit a proposal for external funding within 24 months following the initial RFI award. Failure to do so may disqualify the applicant from future RFI funding competitions.
  • A final report is required and due to the RFI no later than one month following the conclusion of the project.
  • The project should be completed within 24 months. Extensions are discouraged and will only be considered for extreme circumstances (6 months maximum).
Funds may be used for wages and salaries of faculty and staff (provided the award is not used to generate salary savings*), graduate and undergraduate students and other key personnel; as well as operating expenses such as databases, supplies and travel that are directly related to the project.

Funds may not be used for any of the following purposes:

  • Indirect costs
  • To replace current funding*;
  • Remodeling, renovation or construction;
  • Recruitment or start-up packages for new hires; and
  • Items for purposes not exclusive to the project, such as desktop or laptop computers, printers, software and related accessories and general office supplies.
* In general, RFI funding cannot be used to replace current salary funding. Exceptions can be made if the salary savings are needed to backfill positions that allow the PI or other team members to meet current program commitments. Summer salary or positions funded with “soft” dollars are allowed. Exceptions should be explained in the Budget Justification section.
Click here to:
  • Enter title page information using the online form
  • Upload proposal information as a single PDF document

1. Title Page Information

(Entered online and required for submission.)
  • Project Title
  • Total Request Amount ($)
  • Principal Investigator (Name, Affiliation, Telephone & Email)
  • Co-Principal Investigator(s) (Name, Affiliation, Telephone & Email)
  • Other Partners (if applicable)

2. Resesarch & Engagement Proposal: Administrative Approval Form

The person who wigns this form should be the PI or co-PI from the University of Nebraska who will administer the award funds.  Include his/her campus address as well as the PI or co-PI signature. It also requires signature of the appropriate campus administrator, verifying submission approval.

3. Abstract

(1/2 page – abstract on separate page from project narrative) Summarize the purpose, importance, expected outcomes and key activities/milestones of the proposal.

4. Project Narrative

The project narrative is limited to six single-spaced pages, using Times New Roman (or similar), 11-point font and one-inch margins. The project narrative should include the following:
  • Context/Justification: Provide the background/rationale for the project, including why the topic/scope is critical to the future of rural areas, and its linkage to the RFI’s vision and mission. What is the underlying need, problem or opportunity that the proposal addresses? How does the project consider the triple bottom line of economic, social and environmental considerations?
  • Ultimate Long-Term Impact (one sentence): If the objectives of this proposal are successfully completed, what could potentially be different ten years from now in rural areas of Nebraska and beyond?
  • Project Objective(s): What specific objective(s) will be reached at the end of the grant period?
  • Methodology and Time Line: Explain the methodology and associated time line of the methodological steps that will be undertaken to insure that the project objectives are met in a timely and successful fashion. Explicitly address how the tools, results, applications, findings, innovations or processes will be shared with both the academic and non-academic communities, including rural people and places.
  • Partnerships: What new University partnerships will be established through this project with: (a) organizations, institutions and agencies external to NU, and (b) specific communities? What are the roles and responsibilities of each partner? What groundwork has already been laid and what else will be needed to insure that these partnerships function effectively? Will these partnerships be sustained beyond the award’s lifetime?
  • Project Success: What does success look like and how will it be measured?
  • Beyond the Project: If this project proposal is successful, what might be the next logical steps and subsequent opportunities, including other funding opportunities?
  • Identifying and Managing Adversity: Obstacles and barriers are often encountered in the implementation and execution of new projects. What do you anticipate will be the most challenging aspect of executing your proposal and what are some steps that can be taken to minimize this challenge or are there alternative ways of moving the project forward if the obstacle is insurmountable?
Note: References cited in the Context/Justification section are included in the 6-page limit.

5. Budget Table(s) and Budget Justification

Budget detail must be provided in the attached budget table(s) for Year One and, if applicable, Year Two. The budget tables (A2a and A2b) must be accompanied by a budget justification (no more than one page) which explains expenditures in each budget category. Budget lines for Year 1 and Year 2 may be combined in the budget justification narrative.

6. Biographical Materials

Provide up to a two-page biographical sketch/vitae for each PI/co-PIs. Do not exceed two pages per person.

7. Letters of Commitment

If the success of the proposal is linked to agencies, organizations or institutions external to the University of Nebraska, include letters of commitment from the relevant agencies, organizations or institutions. The letters should specify clearly what the role and nature of the commitment is. NOTE: these are NOT letters of support in which external stakeholders indicate their support for the proposal. The latter type of letter is not to be included.
Following is the list of criteria by which the research proposals will be evaluated:
  • Transdisciplinary, collaborative, innovative and bold (20 points)
  • The context/justification (15 points)
  • Short-term considerations/meeting project objectives (20 points)
  • Long-term considerations (10 points)
  • Project administration (20 points)
  • Budget considerations (15 points)
Principal investigators will be required to submit project reports on behalf of their teams to the Rural Futures Institute. Reports will be required every six months and final reports will be required 30 days after the end of the project.

Proposal Deadline:
March 15, 2017, 4:00 PM CST

Award Notification:
May 15, 2017

Start Date:
July 1, 2017

2017 Teaching & Engagement | Request for Proposals

2017 Teaching & Engagement

Thank you for your interest in the 2017 Rural Futures Institute Teaching & Engagement Awards Program. As it is after 4:00 pm CST on Wednesday, March 1, we are no longer accepting proposal submissions.

  • Up to five awards will be made with $20,000 maximum per award.
  • The project time period will not exceed 24 months.
  • Each program/project/course must be delivered twice during the two years.

If you have questions about the submission process, please contact Kim Peterson kpeterson@nebraska.edu or call 402-472-9287.

The University of Nebraska is committed to establishing a transformative Rural Futures Institute (RFI). RFI's vision, mission and core values are the fundamental underpinnings for this request for proposals.

Vision

RFI will be a locally, nationally and internationally recognized leader focused on increasing community capacity as well as the hope and confidence of rural people to address their challenges and opportunities, resulting in resilient and sustainable futures.

Mission

Through a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship, RFI mobilizes the diverse resources of the University of Nebraska and its partners to support rural communities and regions in building upon their unique strengths and assets to achieve their desired futures.

Core Values

The work commissioned and supported by RFI must be guided by the Institute’s core values:
  • Bold
  • Transdisciplinary
  • Innovative
  • Agile
  • Collaborative
  • Reflective
The purpose of RFI Teaching & Engagement Competitive Awards is to foster the development of civic engagement in both students and community partners. Inherent to the vision, mission, and core values of RFI, the awards program particularly encourages rural community members in partnership with higher education institutions to seek funding that results in college students involvement in providing services to help meet the community’s needs. Faculty and staff seeking funding should ensure that any civic engagement or service learning endeavor integrates meaningful student service experiences into the curriculum and, in the case of service learning, builds curriculum-based reflection activities to enhance student learning. RFI will assist in identifying potential partners, if asked. Project proposals must focus on involving students in one or more of the following areas:

a) Civic Engagement

Implement civic engagement efforts into new or existing programs to develop RFI's core values in both communities and partnering campuses. For example, involving partners in recruitment/retention programs; creating learning communities that include civic engagement in the design; establishing diversity initiatives that explicitly link active and collaborative community-based teaching and learning with the academic success of underrepresented students or internship programs in rural communities. Community partners are particularly encouraged to seek, in conjunction with participating campuses or institutions of higher education, funding for the civic engagement portion of the teaching and learning award funding.

b) Undergraduate & Graduate Service Learning

Applicants must enhance curriculum by designing new course(s) or revising an existing course(s) with a partner agency to include a service learning component. Service learning is a transformational pedagogy that integrates service in the community with academic study. Faculty, in partnership with community representatives, design service learning projects based on two main objectives:
  • meeting identified community needs, which helps strengthen the community;
  • advancing student understanding of course content through real world experiences.
Strong reflective components should be built into the course to help students consider the relationships among their service, the course curriculum, and its impact on their personal values and professional goals. See the following websites for information and examples of service learning:

c) Undergraduate & Graduate Student Community-based Research

Applicants must develop and initiate a community-based research project focused on advancing the field of civic engagement through service learning by addressing a community identified need/issue.
  • University faculty and staff as well as Nebraska community members and non-NU higher education faculty/staff are welcome to apply, however, either the Principal Investigator (PI) or a co-Principal Investigator (co-PI) must be affiliated with NU and take responsibility for administering the award funds.
  • Collaboration with partners external to the University of Nebraska is strongly encouraged.
  • An individual may serve as the PI for only one proposal but may serve as a (co-PI) on one or more proposals.
Proposals will be reviewed by a panel that will include representation from the University of Nebraska’s four campuses who have expertise in service learning, civic engagement, and a clear understanding of RFI's vision, mission and core values. The panel will prioritize applications for funding based upon the selection criteria provided in Section V of this RFP. Final selections will be made by the RFI Executive Director.
  1. Potential to result in contributions to and measurable outcomes consistent with the RFI vision and mission.
  2. Compatibility with the RFI core values, especially reflective and collaborative.
  3. Potential for student learning, addressing rural community needs/issues, advancing the field of civic engagement, and advancing professional development of the applicants.
  4. Potential for establishing and sustaining the program/project/course(s) to continue after the grant period.
  5. Matching funds are not required but may increase the likelihood of funding success.
Those proposals ultimately funded will have certain expectations of the PI and the key personnel including the following:
  • Recipients are expected to participate in a working group composed of RFI Teaching & Engagement award recipients. It is anticipated that group will gather at least once a year to share ‘best practices’ around innovative and creative processes and strategies unique to engaged teaching.
  • Recipients are expected to conduct their program/project/course during both years of the project.
  • Recipients are expected to demonstrate impact by sharing their engaged teaching/research at a number of venues including conferences, such as the Rural Futures Conference, and in refereed publications. In addition, the PI is expected to work with both the RFI Director of Competitive Awards and the RFI Director of Communications on external communications opportunities (white papers, interviews, recorded presentation, lecture, webinar, etc.) to share project results/findings with the broader RFI audience.
  • A final report is required and due to RFI no later than one month following the conclusion of funding.
  • The project should be completed within 24 months and extensions are discouraged and will only be considered for extreme circumstances (6 months maximum).
Funds may be used for wages and salaries of faculty and staff (provided the award is not used to generate salary savings*), graduate and undergraduate students and other key personnel, as well as operating expenses such as databases, supplies and travel that are directly related to the project.

Funds may not be used for any of the following purposes:

  • To replace current funding*;
  • Remodeling, renovation or construction;
  • Recruitment or start-up packages for new hires; and
  • Items for purposes not exclusive to the project, such as desktop or laptop computers, iPads, printers, software and related accessories and general office supplies.
* In general, RFI funding cannot be used to replace current salary funding. Exceptions can be made if the salary savings are needed to backfill positions that allow the PI or other team members to meet current program commitments. Summer salary or positions funded with “soft” dollars are allowed. Exceptions should be explained in the Budget Justification section.
Click here to:
  • Enter title page information using the online form
  • Upload proposal information as a single PDF document

1. Title Page Information

(entered online, required for submission)
  • Title
  • Total Request Amount ($)
  • Principal Investigator (Name, Affiliation, Telephone & Email)
  • Co-Principal Investigator(s) (Name, Affiliation, Telephone & Email)
  • Other Partners (if applicable)

2. Project Description

The project description is limited to three single-spaced pages, using Times New Roman (or similar) 11-point font and one-inch borders in a PDF format. The project description should describe the proposed program/project/course(s) as it relates to one or more of the following three focus areas, clearly addressing the issues listed in the area below that will be the focus of the project. The plan must include a project timeline.

Undergraduate and Graduate Service Learning

  • Include a course description and learning outcomes.
  • Provide a clear rationale for why and how service learning should be integrated into the course(s).
  • Describe the reflection activities that clearly link the service experience with the learning objectives of the course.
  • Provide evidence for the sustainability of the course after the grant period ends.

Undergraduate and Graduate Student Research

  • Describe the community-based project.
  • Describe how the project integrates with teaching and professional service.
  • Describe student roles in the project and the reflective activities structured to link the service experience with the learning.
  • Provide evidence for project sustainability.
  • Describe how the results will be communicated.

Civic Engagement

  • Include a description of the engagement program and expected outcomes (recruitment/retention rates, diversity focused learning objectives, etc.).
  • Provide a clear rationale for why and how the engagement activities are integrated into the program.
  • Provide evidence for the sustainability of the program after the grant period ends.

List the project's long-term and short-term goals related to:

  • Student learning;
  • Furthering institutional and departmental goals toward institutionalization of civic engagement and service learning;
  • Addressing community needs/issues;
  • Advancing the field of civic engagement and service learning as the pedagogy of engagement; and
  • Community partnerships including the role of community representatives in the design and implementation of the program/project/course(s).
Note: References cited in Project Description are included in the three-page limit and should conform to an accepted journal format.

3. Project Budget

Provide a one-page budget in which personnel and operating expenditures are identified and explained.

4. Biographical Materials

Provide up to a two-page biographical sketch/vitae for each PI/co-PIs. Do not exceed two pages per person.

Proposal Deadline:
March 1, 2017, 4:00 PM CST

Award Notification:
May 1, 2017

Start Date:
July 1, 2017

Starting Up: What Women Need to Know to Start a Business

Starting  Up: What Women Need to Know to Start a Business

All entrepreneurs welcome!

August 23  |  8:30 – 12:30am  |  Grand Island, NE

Edith Abbott Memorial Library
211 N Washington St.
Grand Island, NE

Register by Aug. 17:
Email Monica Braun monicab@cfra.org

Presented by:
REAP-Women’s Business Center, the US Small Business Administration and the FDIC

English Flyer »

Spanish Flyer »

 

NCRCRD Webinar: Assessment of Tribal Natural Resources Needs & Services

Assessment of Tribal Natural Resources Needs and Services: Transforming Governance, Management, and Sovereignty in the Upper Great Lakes

Jubin Cheruvelil, Michigan State University
July 18, 2016 | 3:00 PM Eastern Time

http://ncrcrd.adobeconnect.com/ncrcrd

About the webinar:

Tribal communities are the stewards of vast rural areas in the Upper Great Lakes. Communities are responsible for the management of Tribal owned lands and the co-management of vast ceded and treatied territories. They face considerable challenges given the dependence on the natural and land resources juxtaposed with rapid environmental and economic changes taking place. Very little effort has been made to assess rural Tribal needs for resource management and governance. In order to understand these challenges, I employed interviews, inter-tribal surveys, and periodical and policy analysis to assess these roadblocks.

The alignment with federal standards also presents mismatches between Tribal and federal standards, regulations, and values of the environment. A better understanding of these mismatches and road blocks can provide a better road map for sovereign approaches that serves both short and long-term natural resources and community wellbeing in the Upper Great Lakes rural communities.

Presented by: Jubin J. Cheruvelil, Ph.D., Dr. Cheruvelil is an anthropologist and behavioral ecologist who studies role and relationships of Indigenous and marginalized communities and the use of natural resources and landscapes. Specifically, he is interested in the linkages between governance, livelihoods, and community well-being. He employs decision-making and critical theories, and mixed methods (qualitative and quantitative) in his research. His overall research program explores three key themes 1) indigenous resource commons and policy, 2) Indigenous knowledge, behavior and well-being and 3) Indigenous landscape history and change.

Registration: There is no registration and no fee for attending this webinar.

To join the webinar go to http://ncrcrd.adobeconnect.com/ncrcrd, “enter as a guest” is by default already chosen. Type your name into the text box provided, and click on “Enter Room”. You are now in the meeting room for the webinar.

To facilitate Q&A’s, participants submit questions/comments via the Chat Function in Adobe Connect.

The webinar will be recorded and archived at http://ncrcrd.msu.edu/ncrcrd/chronological_archive.

 To receive these announcements directly, or to correct errors in our distribution list, please email soliz@anr.msu.edu.

North Central Regional Center for Rural Development
Michigan State University
Justin S. Morrill Hall of Agriculture
446 W. Circle Drive, Room 66
East Lansing, MI 48824
517.355.3373

Young Leaders can Share talents with State

June 24, 2016 | Original Post

Last year’s Civic Health Index for Nebraska showed that millennials — people around age 30 and younger — are the least likely to volunteer, register to vote and show up to the polls, or contact public officials. The first-ever study of its type in Nebraska revealed that, as a state, we need to get our younger Nebraskans civically engaged.

Nebraska’s towns and cities thrive when their residents ask, “How can I help?”

The Civic Health Index report raised a red flag, but it also amplified the fact that young Nebraskans possess a wealth of untapped potential to powerfully strengthen their communities. How? By joining organizations that address basic community needs. Church groups, athletic leagues and chambers of commerce are great outlets for young people to put their strong backs and new ideas to work.

Young people have a slew of opportunities to boost the quality of life for themselves and their neighbors, grow our state’s economy and retain residents.

The University of Nebraska’s recently launched Rural Futures Institute understands and appreciates the potential effect civically involved millennial can have on the state, and for that reason, the institute is organizing a leadership summit for fall through the Connecting Young Nebraskans statewide network. CYN is building a network of 550-plus engaged young Nebraska professionals and is continuing to develop new relationships across the state.

The fall leadership event — 2016 Connecting Young Nebraskans Summit — will unfold under the theme, “Creating Life Balance!” The event will be Oct. 28 in York’s Holtus Convention Center. Keynoter Lisa Gunderson is certified to deliver reality-based leadership programs to audiences of all professional levels.

Gunderson will be just one of the engaging speakers who participants will hear. The summit also will offer interactive breakout sessions that will include Senior Gallup Researcher Shane Lopez presenting on the science of hope.

On the evening of Oct. 27, the day before the summit kicks off, mentalist and entertainer Arthur Fratelli will help early arrivals break the ice and begin networking for sessions on the following day.

For millennials looking for ideas and encouragement to be involved, the CYN event offers a lot of promise. Best of all, it’s geared to the people who, sooner than they realize, will be leading Nebraska into the future.

Marketing Rural Nebraska To New Residents

Marketing Rural Nebraska To New Residents

by Ariana Brocious, NET News

Many Nebraska small towns have been shrinking. A new effort combines modern marketing with old-fashioned community discussions to help reverse that trend.

“Even to maintain your size you need new faces, new people in the community,” said Cheryl Burkhart-Kriesel, a University of Nebraska-Lincoln extension specialist in Scottsbluff. “So we just haven’t kept up pace with bringing those new faces in.”

But not all counties saw losses. A few years ago, Burkhart-Kriesel studied 11 counties in Nebraska’s panhandle to find out what draws people to – and keeps them in – rural communities. Many people may want to move to – or back to – rural towns—for jobs, family and quality of life.

Burkhart-Kriesel said new residents are critical to grow and maintain vibrant communities. But she found one of the main ways new residents scope out potential places—through town web sites—may inadvertently be turning them away.

“When they would go to actually use the website as sort of a filter of where they might relocate, a lot of new residents couldn’t find the information they needed. So that got us thinking in terms of marketing, there’s some real concrete things communities can do,” Burkhart-Kriesel said.

Based on that panhandle research, Burkhart-Kriesel and others developed an extension program called Marketing Hometown America. Seven communities in North Dakota, South Dakota and Nebraska tested it in 2014.

“Marketing Hometown America is really about the community taking a look at itself and saying, what do we look like to new residents? And can we really showcase what we have to offer in this community a little better to that new resident who might be looking to relocate,” Burkhart-Kriesel said.

The extension program trains local residents to lead small discussions among community members, talking about what strengths their community has and how they could better highlight those. After several discussions, the various small groups share their findings with one another and decide on ways they can act. Ben Dutton, an extension educator in Red Willow County, is leading the effort in Nebraska’s southwest corner.

Community members gather at the Marketing Hometown America kick-off event in McCook. (Photo by Ariana Brocious, NET News)

“Ultimately what comes out of it is this laundry list of things that are good things in the community and then things that we might be able to improve, or things we’d like to have that might attract new people,” Dutton said.

From that list communities decide among themselves who will take on the projects—volunteers, city council, private business, or others. Dutton said they strive to involve more than the “usual suspects.”

“There are a lot of different groups that aren’t typically involved in community conversations. And so they’re not used to being asked,” Dutton said. “But most of the time they do really want to be a part of it, they just didn’t know how to get connected before.”

Neligh, a town of about 1500 in northeast Nebraska, was one of the Marketing Hometown America pilot communities. Neligh Economic Development Director Greg Ptacek said a strength of the program was its ability to include diverse perspectives.

“It wasn’t just the same 10 people that show up to every town hall meeting. It was 60 people who might not have normally given their input in a town hall meeting that actually allowed us to change some of the perceptions around Neligh,” Ptacek said. The main result of their program was a town rebranding effort focusing on Neligh’s high quality of life.

“Our brand had been previously just the drive-in and just the Neligh Mill. And what came out of this Marketing Hometown America, and what we found incredibly valuable, is that Neligh is a lot more,” Ptacek said.

That led to the creation of a series of videos (like the one above) on the town’s website that showcase what it has to offer. Ptacek said newcomers have told him the videos helped them decide to move there.

UNL Extension has funds to continue the program in other Nebraska communities, including Red Cloud, Broken Bow and McCook. At the McCook kickoff event a couple weeks ago, facilitators like Clark Bates were enthusiastic about the effort.

“I think there are a lot of things McCook has going for it that people don’t know about, even people who live in McCook and I would like to see this project bring some of those things to light,” Bates said.

McCook Economic Development Corporation Director Kirk Dixon said the program will help the town identify its assets.

“We want to understand what we do that’s so great that we don’t want to lose, and we want to figure out a way to creatively sustain that,” Dixon said. As someone who recently moved to McCook full-time from Washington D.C., Dixon understands the appeal of safe, economically and culturally strong rural communities to outsiders. And he said the timing couldn’t be better, because local leadership in McCook is ready for this kind of effort.

“It’s just uncanny how everyone seems to be lined up right now ready for growth, ready for change, and wanting to team together to do that,” Dixon said.

Creighton college student Peyton Stagemeyer grew up in McCook. At the kickoff event, he said he was recruited to join a discussion group focused on younger residents.

“I already love McCook and I always do my own kind of marketing down at Creighton cause people always ask me where I’m from,” Stagemeyer said. He’s in town for the summer working for his dad’s business, but not sure yet if he’ll move back after graduation.

“There’s not always like, a whole lot to do. Coming from Omaha, I guess you kind of notice that,” Stagemeyer said.

Young people commonly leave rural communities to pursue education, jobs and life experiences elsewhere. But recent USDA and census data found that more 30-year-olds are moving back to rural towns, often looking to raise their families in small towns. That, combined with recent increase in birth rates and economic growth, has dramatically slowed overall rural depopulation for the first time in five years.

Original Story Here »

Analysis: Internet Access — An Incomplete Promise

Analysis: Internet Access — An Incomplete Promise

By Frederick L. Pilot  |  Original Post on The Daily Yonder  |  June 1, 2016  |  Print article

The U.S. has failed to deliver on universal high-speed, wired Internet service. The consequences for America’s disconnected are a litany of troubles: economic decline population loss, less access to education, and poorer quality medical care. History is likely to judge us harshly.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article is excerpted from a the report “Service Unavailable: America’s Telecommunications Crisis.”

The lack of broadband is a roadblock in the way of telemedicine for smaller communities.

The lack of broadband is a roadblock in the way of telemedicine for smaller communities.

A prime example of the highly detailed irregularity of landline Internet infrastructure is the case of Jesse Walser, who lives about 20 miles outside of Syracuse, New York, in the town of Pompey. With Time Warner Cable lines about a third of a mile down the road from his house, Walser nevertheless was told by the company that he’d have to pay more than $20,000 to connect his home its network.

Walser and many other Americans are victims of arbitrary redlining by incumbent telephone and cable companies. It’s difficult to make a credible argument that living a third of a mile from existing infrastructure puts a customer in the middle of nowhere, making it too expensive to extend service. Walser’s experience of living close to existing telecommunications infrastructure but not being able to get service is not unique. This situation has existed unchanged throughout much of the United States over the past decade and isn’t likely to change anytime soon without an aggressive plan to address this infrastructure deficit.

With their homes and small businesses lacking access to robust fiber Internet service, many American small business operators try to get by with mobile wireless service not intended to support businesses. Larry Korte is an example, trying to run his consulting business in Churchville, Virginia, on 4G cellular service. But since the service is essentially metered Internet, where users pay overage charges for exceeding bandwidth limits, Korte finds the service expensive and a poor value. “I go to the [cell phone provider] and say, ‘Well, we need 300 gigabytes a month. That would probably do it.’” Korte said. “They laugh at it, and tell me to go to the cable company.” But like many residents in Augusta County, Virginia, Korte’s home is unserved for cable.

Tennessee State Senator Todd Gardenhire (R-Chattanooga) wants to get better Internet access to about 800 homes in his district. He notes that Charter, Comcast, and AT&T told him that “it’s not profitable” to serve homes in that district, which covers parts of Hamilton and Bradley counties in southeast Tennessee. Some premises in southern Bradley County are less than a mile from Chattanooga’s municipal fiber service, leaving them with dial-up service and a slow connection speed. That leaves nursery operator Joyce Coltrin, like many unserved Americans, reliant on her smartphone for Internet access. “It’s very hard to use an iPhone for business,” said Coltrin, who heads a group of 160 households who call themselves “citizens striving to be part of the 21st century.”

Joanne Hovis, CEO of the national Coalition for Local Internet Choice, notes that mobile wireless Internet service provides just a fraction of what fiber can deliver with respect to speed, reliability, and capacity. “Because of data caps and usage-based pricing, it’s also very, very expensive for anyone who uses a lot of bandwidth, such as families who home-school and therefore require lots of online video,” Hovis complains. She adds that those who argue that people don’t need fiber infrastructure because they have DSL or wireless service “is like saying that the nation doesn’t need the Interstate highway system because we have the Santa Fe Trail.”

Regions Suffer Disparate Internet Infrastructure 

There are many communities in Virginia—largely in the central and southwest regions—where less than 55 percent of households have Internet connections. “We have some that are well-connected, we have some that are not so well connected,” said Virginia Secretary of Technology Karen Jackson. Given the lack of Internet access at home for many students, schools are opening after regular hours to fill the gap, Jackson said.

Internet infrastructure deficiencies also hurt higher education in Virginia. Rebecca Scheckler, an instructor at Radford University’s School of Nursing, notes her students who live in Pulaski County are required to take online courses, and those who work from home have limited Internet access. “We live in an underserved medical area,” Scheckler says. “I’ve had to advise well-qualified candidates to not go into the [nursing] program because they don’t have good Internet access.” In some regions, like California’s north coast, Internet cafes provide Internet access to consumers who cannot purchase it at home because no service is offered. Michael Nicholls, cochairman of Access Sonoma Broadband, supported the FCC’s adoption of regulations in early 2015 that subjects Internet service to the universal service mandate that has been in place for telephone service for decades.

Internet telecommunications is increasingly seen as being as vital to a region’s economic viability as other utilities, such electrical power. As knowledge work becomes more geographically independent, knowledge workers will need advanced telecommunications infrastructure at their doorsteps… That means fiber-optic connections offering symmetric upload and download speeds and scalability for future growth that is generally not offered by incumbent telco and cable companies.

America’s spotty, disparate Internet access is affecting where people choose to live—as well as where they choose not to live. In Door County, Wisconsin, [a peninsula in Lake Michigan] for example, it’s estimated that between 35 and 50 percent of residential premises have limited Internet access, and another 25 percent have no access. Door County Broadband CEO Kevin Voss says the lack of reliable Internet service makes the county an undesirable locale for people considering moving there.

A study by Broadband Communities magazine revealed a correlation between population trends and the robustness of telecommunications services. One of the publication’s editors, Steven Ross, conducted the research. He notes that the study’s findings correlate to a recent U.S. Commerce Department study that found for the first time in U.S. history, most rural counties lost population between 2010 and 2012.  (EDITOR’S NOTE: Rural population stabilized in the most recent report from the USDA Economic Research Service, which covered 2010 to 2015.)

The study suggests that U.S. settlement and land use patterns could strongly be influenced by the deployment of more robust telecommunications infrastructure in less populous areas of the nation—especially given the fact that much of today’s information and knowledge-based economic activity can take place most anywhere that infrastructure is available. This would balance out the distribution of economic activity that tends to concentrate in high-cost metro areas across a wider swath of the nation and help boost economic development in relatively less populated regions.

Deficient Internet telecommunications infrastructure in these areas of the nation lowers the ability of people to work remotely for distant employers and clients, of school children to access digital learning materials online, and of medical care professionals to interact with and monitor patients via telemedicine. Internet telecommunications is increasingly seen as being as vital to a region’s economic viability as other utilities, such electrical power. As knowledge work becomes more geographically independent, knowledge workers will need advanced telecommunications infrastructure at their doorsteps that can support videoconferencing and other interactive applications. That means fiber-optic connections offering symmetric upload and download speeds and scalability for future growth that is generally not offered by incumbent telco and cable companies.

In 2014, the Federation of State Medical Boards adopted a model policy designed to guide state medical boards in regulating the delivery of medical services remotely via telemedicine. That policy drew protest over its requirement that doctors and patients cannot rely exclusively on lower bandwidth applications such as texting, e-mail, and voice communications and instead must utilize higher bandwidth secure Internet videoconferencing. Opponents of the policy complained that the requirement wouldn’t be practical given Internet infrastructure gaps that don’t allow reliable video connections to patients in their homes.

The adverse impact of Internet access disparities on telemedicine was highlighted during an April 2015 hearing of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. Todd Rytting, chief technology officer of Panasonic of North America, testified that while providing Internet-based heartmonitoring services for elderly residents of the New York City area, his company found several places where there was no wired broadband, Wi-Fi, or strong mobile signals available. The SmartCare monitoring service significantly reduced the numbers of heart patients who had to return to the hospital, but “the biggest problem we faced was the lack of broadband to some of our citizens,” Rytting said. Some potential users of the service couldn’t get a broadband connection in “downtown New York City,” he added.

Telecom Infrastructure at an Inflection Point 

In 2015, the United States is at an uncomfortable inflection point where the line extensions of telephone and cable TV services to Internet service have gone about as far as they can within their business models, leaving millions of American homes and businesses without modern Internet service and no immediate prospect of getting it.

Driving much of the discomfort is the lack of a successor to these business models that cannot achieve universal Internet service in the new century in a timely manner. The legacy providers have also reached the limits of their “triple play” business models—offering bundles of Internet data, TV video, and voice service—due to the high costs of TV programming. This provides them little incentive to bring fiber connections to about a quarter of the nation’s homes and small businesses that have remained unserved by modern Internet infrastructure for nearly more than a decade and stuck with dial-up and satellite and, where available, fixed terrestrial wireless service.

The problem has worsened in the past decade as telephone companies have concentrated their infrastructure investments on mobile wireless services while all but ignoring their deteriorating landline cable plants. Much of the landline cable plants are in such poor condition that they can’t deliver any Internet connectivity or can do so only marginally at sluggish speeds.

One strategy for the telephone companies going forward is to sell off portions of their copper cable network assets to smaller players, such as AT&T and Verizon have done. However, in portions of these companies’ service territories where the decades-old copper cable plant is in poor condition and a fully depreciated asset, it’s questionable what value any buyer would see in such a deal. Consequently, these companies have put those assets into runoff mode while milking a declining residual cash flow from a shrinking legacy landline phone services customer base and those stuck with slow, firstgeneration DSL at serviceable premises.

History is likely to judge the United States very harshly in how it met its Internet telecommunications infrastructure challenge. If the nation and its leadership had engaged in proper planning and budgeting a generation ago for the construction of ubiquitous fiber to all American premises, by now, the nation would be fully fibered and reaping the complete promise and value of the Internet.

Instead, the previous two decades were squandered on inaction.

Fred Pilot is from California and writes the Eldo Telecom blog, which covers broadband accessibility and policy.